When meeting as youngsters, Cheshire teenagers Alex Kailan and Noah Sussal didn’t know about the friendship they would develop in school and their community.
“Alex and I met in first grade,” recalled Sussal. “We have known each other for 10 years and we have become extremely close. It has been great to grow up experiencing so many things.”
As juniors at Cheshire High School this year, the friends have taken a leadership role on a project close to their hearts. Kailan and Sussal are working as student visionaries for Rams for Remedy Vol. 4, an initiative designed to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
“I knew from the beginning, it was something that I wanted to take over,” said Kailan, who joined Rams for Remedy as a sophomore.
Formerly known as the Students of the Year campaign, Student Visionaries of the Year is a LLS philanthropic and leadership development program for high-school students. Over a span of seven weeks, individuals and teams work toward creating a world without blood cancers.
CHS has had a team picked to participate for the last four years. This year, they are among 12 regional squads raising money from February through March.
“It is awesome,” stated Kailan. “When I looked back at other years and numbers, it is a big thing in Cheshire. I’m happy to carry it on.”
Kailan said that his older sister inspired him to participate with Rams for Remedy. As a senior last year, Annabelle Kailan led the team to a fundraising total of approximately $13,000.
“It felt good that I was helping people to progress with cancer research,” recalled Alex Kailan.
Sussal joined Rams for Remedy at the end of the 2022 program.
“Through Alex and Annabelle, I heard about this,” reflected Sussal. “I purchased a T-shirt at lunch and then they asked me if I wanted to help out with their bowling fundraiser. The community drove me to get involved.”
Since his older sister was stepping down, Kailan pitched the idea that he could follow in her footsteps and lead Rams for Remedy with his friend.
“I’m really happy that I have this opportunity. It meant a lot that my sister trusted me with this role,” explained Kailan. “It was awesome to be nominated with him (Sussal).”
“Out of a lot of potential candidates, it made me feel really good to be chosen to take this on,” recalled Sussal. “It helped me to realize that this was something that I could truly make a large impact in.”
Like Kailan, Sussal has had multiple family members affected by cancer.
“I understand the challenges that cancer causes for patients, along with their families,” stated Sussal. “To be able to work on this (initiative) means a lot.”
After becoming student visionaries, Kailan and Sussal started planning last spring. The friends reached out to LLS Campaign Development Manager Catherine Morley and started discussing what their program would look like.
“They are incredible. They are great leaders and have worked so hard in spreading awareness of our mission,” said Morley, who has been working with LLS for a year and a half. “Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. It is important that we raise money for research and resources to support those who have been diagnosed.”
Morley has enjoyed seeing the passion for service at CHS.
“They (the student body) are incredibly enthusiastic and come together for a great cause,” added Morley.
Like their predecessors before them, Sussal and Kailan had monthly meetings through November last year.
“We got our team together and started setting up fundraisers,” recalled Sussal.
For their squad, Kailan and Sussal reached out to students Michael Anastasio, Josh Wildstein, Katie Hall, and Kevin Blier.
The leaders also brought on family members, including their parents. Kailan’s uncle and Sussal’s younger sister Grace additionally joined the LLS team.
“It’s great to have a lot of people,” stated Kailan. “A lot of team members have raised over $500. Everybody has different connections and set of friends and family to reach out to.”
Grace Sussal is currently in eighth grade at Dodd Middle School. Noah hopes that she will be a candidate for a Rams for Remedy visionary position during her high school experience.
“She came to our bowling event last year and wanted to be involved,” reflected Sussal. “She has been so helpful with everything.”
On Feb. 3, Rams for Remedy officially started their campaign on a Zoom call with the other 11 regional teams.
Team members set up fundraising pages, but as a group, Rams for Remedy held a pair of in-person events last week. On March 8 from 4 to 8 p.m., they had a fundraiser at Chipotle in Wallingford.
“We invited friends and family to come,” recalled Sussal. “At checkout, they just had to mention that they wanted to support the Rams for Remedy fundraiser and a percentage (33%) would go to us.”
Two days later, a bowling event was held at Apple Valley Bowl in Plantsville.
“People got two hours to bowl and raise money with their friends,” stated Kailan.
Sussal appreciated his younger sister helping the team get a good turnout.
“We were having a hard time getting people, but she spent hours reaching out to her drama friends and other people she knows,” recalled Sussal.
In their first two fundraisers, Kailan estimated that Rams for Remedy collected about $440.
“It was awesome,” stated Kailan. “It was a lot higher than expected. Everything is more expensive now, so it was good to see people come out and give that much money.”
Organizers have transitioned into selling shirts.
“When Alex and I were in the planning (stages), we heard from Annabelle (Kailan) that the shirts brought a lot to the campaign,” reflected Sussal.
The team was having some issues until they reached out to CHS teacher Sean McKeown.
“He let us use his (printing) press to get the shirts made,” stated Sussal.
Kailan’s mother donated white shirts. The team had “Leukemia & Lymphoma Society” and “Rams for Remedy” printed them on them in red.
After getting approval from the CHS administration, the squad ordered the shirts and made them available for purchase at last Friday’s bowling event.
Going forward, the T-shirts will mostly be sold for $20 during lunch at CHS.
“We’d like to sell about 50 shirts,” said Kailan.
Rams for Remedy mentor Brian Sullivan also offered to make key chains. Sullivan was put on the team by Morley.
“We will by selling those (key chains) with the T-shirts,” added Sussal.
To cap their initiative on March 24, Sussal and Kailan will attend a grand finale event with the other LLS teams. Top fundraising squads will be recognized, as well as candidates for each mission pillar.
“Alex and I are supporting research,” stated Sussal. “We hope to win that award.”
There will also be a silent auction for which teams can bring five items worth $150. Kailan’s mother donated a painting, as well as a purse from The Red Owl Jewelry and Gifts. Sussal’s father chose to give a carbonated beverage machine and flavoring with it, while Sullivan offered to donate another painting.
“My mom and I also went to get various auction items from local businesses,” added Sussal.
Along with the silent auction, a guest speaker will attend the event.
“We are excited to have our team, family, and Catherine (Morley) come to see how much we have accomplished during the seven-week period,” said Sussal.
While fundraising is still ongoing, Kailan and Sussal have already made plans to look at who they will nominate to lead Rams for Remedy next year.
“We have to sit down with our team members to understand what everyone is thinking. We understand that it is tough to take on something like this in your senior year, so we want to get everyone’s input,” explained Sussal. “I know that whoever takes this on, they will do a great job.”
Additionally, the friends would like to see an LLS program be founded at CHS.
“I think that forming a club would solidify us and allow a larger number of people to get involved in the cause,” stated Sussal.
Kailan said that the CHS team would like to raise around $10,000. To make a donation to Rams for Remedy, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.