One north side mother recently proved that anything is possible with a bit of passion, determination and a big support group—even raising nearly $70,000 in 75 days.

The grassroots effort by Barbara Anderson, which came to a close on Saturday, June 17, was part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Man and Women of the Year” campaign. The drive ran concurrently with the society’s “Student of the Year” campaign, and was comprised of individuals from across the region with ties to blood cancer. Money raised by each contestant, five adults and 7 teens, will go to cancer research. Anderson was named Women of the Year after she raised nearly $70,000.

She’ll designate the funds for pediatric cancer research. 

Anderson’s son, Jude, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 18 months old and has since undergone two bone marrow transplants, three immunotherapy clinical trials and three relapses. Now 5 years old, Jude is cancer free and has become an inspiration to his mother as well as the community at large.

Many of those inspired by Jude have joined “Team Jude,” a collection of friends, family other members of the community. Anderson said she was honored to win the award, though she said the true joy came from those who helped her accomplish her goal.

“More than the fundraising, it was the people that worked so hard, because it wasn’t just me,” she said. “It wasn’t the ‘Barb Anderson Show,’ it was all of Team Jude. There were so many of my friends worked really hard, friends that could have every excuse in the book to be too busy to help, but they weren’t.”

Though she exceeded her own expectations over the course of the campaign, Anderson said there were trials along the way.

Near the end of the school year, Jude began to walk with a limp. Around the same time, the counts in his blood work began to drop, and Anderson said she began to fear the worst—that the cancer had returned—when he broke a fever.

After a bone marrow biopsy was performed it was discovered that Jude was sick with both the flu and pneumonia. He has also developed osteonecrosis, which Anderson said is a possible side effect of his treatments. Though his recovery will take some time, Anderson said she and her husband, Aiden, are working every day to help regain his strength, improve his walking and get him ready for school come August.

Despite the challenges, Anderson said Team Jude was with her every step of the way.

“There was one day during all of this where Jude was in the hospital and it was looking pretty bad, it had looked like he relapsed again,” she said. “I had posted something like ‘If you’re thinking of me today, can you please donate,’ and we ended up getting 100 donations that day.”

The dedication shown by Anderson and her team, and all of the society’s nominees and support groups, was what made the campaigns a runaway success, according to LLS Area Director Jeff Petrovic.

“Launching any fundraising campaign can be a little nerve-wracking, especially in a market in which you don’t have a huge volunteer base,” he said. “We’ve had our walk here for a decade, but these fundraisers are much different. Though, I was thrilled with the results.”

More than $150,000 was raised between the 12 campaigns, and Petrovic said that money will have an impact both world-wide and locally. The society is funding $67,000 of cancer research at the University of Arizona, and gave more than $175,000 to families in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties last fiscal year as part of its co-pay assistance program.

Runner-up for woman of the year was Marisa Borjon from Morenci, Arizona. Borjon was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia while attending the UA, and underwent radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and a successful bone marrow transplant via her brother, Jaime. Daniel Persky won man of the year, and Alysana Castaneda won student of the year. 

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