By Andrea Stuart
Love. It holds more value when given to others. For Jodi Essex, Campaign Manager for Champions of Hope – Man & Woman of The Year (MWOY), this belief is the currency behind her work with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS).
When Jodi was diagnosed with cancer just after her 25th birthday, she could have fallen into despair. Thankfully, the LLS proved to be an invaluable resource to her, helping to facilitate her healing through cutting-edge technology and diligence toward finding a cure. The program’s numerous patient care options and opportunities allowed Jodi to be proactive with her health. It also allowed her to connect with the community in a larger capacity. “I began volunteering with LLS after I was diagnosed with cancer and have been doing so ever since,” says Jodi.
Champions of Hope – MWOY is one of several LLS fundraising initiatives that has catapulted blood cancer research, patient education, and services to new levels for 22 years. The 10-week fundraising competition, now in its junior year in Monterey County, inspires local community leaders to vie for the MWOY title by reaching out to their friends, networks, and businesses for donations. The MWOY honor is bestowed upon the persons who raise the most funds for blood cancer research in honor of local children who are blood cancer survivors, the Boy & Girl of the Year. The “champions of hope” then have the honor of mentoring the Boy & Girl of the Year. This year, the Boy of the Year Honoree is Ethan Hewitt and the Girl of The Year Honoree is Olivia Webb. “Although these two courageous young spirits have endured what so many will never face, they are shining lights of inspiration,” adds Jodi. “They are the pivotal force behind the campaign!”
The MWOY campaign helps fund several research grants, including 40-plus research projects at UCSF and Stanford University. Its ability to contribute is largely due to 78 percent of its revenue going back into cancer research and patient services.
Jodi’s charitable efforts don’t stop at the LLS. She is also affiliated with Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), an organization that supports people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. And she’s a member of Rotary Club of the Monterey Pacific. Participating in these efforts is her way of combating what she calls pessimistic diversity and cultural stimulus. “I feel awake and alive within my realization when I’m helping others.”
Right now, Jodi is preparing for the Champions of Hope – MWOY Grand Finale Gala on May 10 at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa. “I live to see others embrace a brightly colored canvas of life. I want others to feel empowered and confident in their hearts and minds,” she concludes. “Hope is always available to share.”
Champions of Hope – MWOY Grand Finale Gala tickets are available at www.mwoy.org/pages/gba/monterey14.