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UM Student Aims to Raise $25K to Fight Blood Cancers

University of Mississippi sophomore Riley Juenger, of St. Louis, hopes to raise $25,000 by May 5 to fund research and patient care for those battling blood cancers. She has raised more than $7,000 so far. Submitted photo.

When University of Mississippi sophomore Riley Juenger was in fourth grade, one of her classmates at Visitation Academy in St. Louis was diagnosed with leukemia and courageously battled the disease until it took her life a few months later. 

At the time, Juenger, a banking and finance major, didn’t understand the disease that her classmate, Molly Gleason, was battling and asked her parents to explain it. The difficult realization that illness and death can strike anyone at any time came to her then.

Knowing Molly and her story instilled a lifelong conviction in Juenger to fight blood cancers and raise money and awareness in hopes of finding a cure. 

Juenger, who has been nominated as a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year candidate, is working to raise $25,000 by May 5 to fund research and patient care for those battling blood cancers. She has created a website for online giving and has raised more than $7,000 so far. 

“Molly’s story had a profound impact on me,” Juenger recalls. “She battled this cancer with courage, dignity and a strong faith. I knew at that moment I needed to be involved and somehow give back to those fighting blood cancers. 

“The LLS gives me the opportunity to feel personally connected to Molly while I raise awareness and money for a cancer that doesn’t care what age you are.”

Juenger is competing against several other LLS Student of the Year candidates in the St. Louis area to raise the most money, which will benefit one boy and one girl there who are battling blood cancers. The donations are tax-deductible and will be used to help in the fight against the most deadly illness for people under age 20.

“Every dollar I raise is a vote for me and a vote to cure cancer,” Juenger said. “I am asking you today to join me in this ambitious campaign.”

This campaign is the latest effort in a commitment that goes back to elementary school for Juenger. She has run 5-Ks and 10-Ks to support the cause and has been involved in other efforts to fight the disease. Her parents, Kevin and Melissa Juenger, of St. Louis, also have supported efforts to help those struggling with the disease. 

The Juengers admire their daughter’s dedication. 

“In addition to being a full-time college student, Riley is devoting her time to help others by raising money to fund research and help find a cure, which we believe is admirable,” Melissa Juenger said. “Her father and I are honored to be her parents and we are very proud of her.”

Michelle Jordan-Berndt, a former LLS Woman of the Year for the St. Louis area, nominated Juenger for the Student of the Year campaign. Jordan-Berndt’s son, Garrett Jordan, is a freshman at Ole Miss. 

“I felt that Riley was the perfect candidate for Student of the Year,” Jordan-Berndt said. “She has a personal connection with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is a driven and passionate individual, and truly believes in giving back to those affected by blood cancer.”

At Ole Miss, Riley Juenger has been talking to as many campus groups as possible. The reception to what she is doing is always positive, and she’s encountered many people who have been affected by the disease. 

“I have found that so many of the people I talk to about my campaign have a connection to blood cancer and want to support our efforts,” she said. “I feel a personal responsibility to help others diagnosed with cancer in any way I can.”

By Michael Newsom

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