Most high school freshmen would have their plates full enough trying to balance school work, running cross country and playing shortstop for the school baseball team. Noah Katz, on the other hand, is also trying to raise $20,000 for charity in his free time.
Noah, a freshman at Jamestown High School, is the leader of Team Strike Out Cancer, one of three local teams competing to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Students of the Year Campaign.
The other two teams are Team Allison, which is run by students from both Warhill and Jamestown High Schools, and Kasim for the Cure, at Lafayette High School. Several attempts to reach members of these groups were unsuccessful.
The honor -- which will be given to one of the nine teams in Virginia competing in this seven-week charity drive -- goes to the group that raises the most money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which funds cancer research, support and advocacy.
“It hasn’t been easy. Just the other night, between baseball practice, homework and sending out emails for this, I felt just completely exhausted by the end of the day,” said Noah. “It’s a lot, but it’s also kind of fun and very rewarding.”
The cause is personal for Noah. While attending middle school, his baseball coach, Roscoe Beerbower, died of cancer, while his aunt, Susan Lazev, won her own battle with the disease. So when Noah heard about this event, he immediately knew he wanted to be involved.
His group, Team Strike Out Cancer, includes 12 students and adults who, in addition to asking for donations, have organized several fundraising events, including a lecture this Sunday and a baseball hit, pitch and run contest to be scheduled in March.
One of the group’s biggest supporters is Amy Lazev Katz, Noah’s mother, who has been proud to see what organizing this event had brought out in her son.
“I help where I can, mostly with driving since Noah is only 14, but most of this he has taken the lead on. He’s always been a self-starter,” said Lazev Katz.“It’s wonderful seeing his enthusiasm and his drive to help other people, and its good to see him putting that toward a good cause like cancer advocacy.”
She has also been surprised by the level of community support since Noah started raising money.
“It’s pretty common to have a family member or a friend who has been diagnosed or is fighting cancer, so we know this is something that touches with many people,” said Amy. “It’s still been a surprise to see the level of support, offering advice, or making donations, it speaks well of the community that they have been so kind and responsive.”
One particularly moving moment for Noah was meeting a young cancer patient in Midlothian also named Noah, who shares his love for sports.
“I met at the contest kickoff event and got to spend time playing catch and foosball,” Noah said. “It made me work that much harder for this cause, knowing every dollar helps people like him.”
The contest ends March 9, and Katz says that Team Strike Out Cancer is already “well on our way” to the group’s goal of raising $20,000.
The campaign has even begun to attract the attention of teachers and staff at Jamestown, including principal Howard E. Townsend IV.
“I’ve sat down with him to ask him about it, and Noah immediately struck me as an exceptional go-getter, he's a very organized, very intelligent young man,” Townsend said. “I’m proud to say there are quite a few bright students like him at Jamestown, they’re the ones that make education a joy, but Noah, there's something special about him, and I’m certain he has a bright future ahead.”
Though Noah has no concrete plans for just what he wants for that future – he says the dream is to play professional baseball, but he’s also interested in studying law or political science – the one certainty, according to Noah, is that he’s only begun to get involved in charity work like this.
“I’ve learned so much from running this, and I hope to get involved in more causes like this in the future,” Noah said. “There’s no feeling like doing something you know is making a difference in people’s lives.”
Want to help?
Team Strike Out Cancer’s next fundraising event will be a lecture from College of William and Mary professor of applied science Dr. Joel S. Levine, titled “Sending Humans to Mars”, 3 p.m. Sunday at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Highway. Admission is free, but donations will be collected.
Those who wish to make a donation can go to events.lls.org/va/richmondSOY19/nkatz8.
Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email email@example.com, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.