Samir Shah, 16, Saar Shah, 15, win national title by raising $400,000 for blood cancer research

Samir Shah, 16, Saar Shah, 15,  two Indian American kids have raised over $413,000 in a seven-week campaign for blood cancer research, helping them win the national title of Students of the Year. Beating out a team from Atlanta that raised $350,000, the Shahs’ campaign received more than 800 donations ranging from $2 to $100,000.

The team of the Samir and Saar, Fly4aCure, was the first from Southern Maryland ever to participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s fundraising campaign. Samir Shah goes to The Calverton School, and Saar Shah attends Great Mills High School. Claire Broadhead, a Leonardtown High School student and a leukemia survivor, was the student ambassador for the campaign.

“We owe it to our community,” Samir Shah said of their campaign’s success. “I think the key factor to us being able to do what we did is our community and the connections we had to a lot of people.” “We were both very surprised by the amount of support we were shown,” Saar Shah said. “We were not really expecting the outpouring of support we got.”

“We began working with the LLS in 2010 when our cousin Ami was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, my father, Amish, was diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma. At that time, I was only 12 and my sister Neelam, 10,” Samir said. “We didn’t understand the significance then but now we have a better understanding of what the LLS has done to provide greater research for new innovative treatments. It has helped our family during our struggle,” he added.

For the two teenagers, raising awareness and money for blood cancer research has been a cause dear to their hearts. Samir Shah’s father, Dr. Amish Shah, was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014. A cousin of Saar Shah battled with leukemia for eight years ago. Both were treated and made full recoveries.

The Shah family has been struck with blood cancers twice in the past few years. Their cousin, Ami, battled a deadly blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia and she is now seven years cancer free. More recently, Samir’s dad, Amish, was diagnosed with primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy and celebrates his incredible recovery.

Samir Shah recalled that the campaign reached out to someone who was diagnosed with a form of leukemia, but his family preferred not to talk about it as the treatment was still going on. The family later changed their minds, attended the ceremony and said that “they had hope that there’s a cure,” Samir Shah said.

“We know firsthand how important cutting-edge research and treatments are in the fight against cancer,” said Samir Shah. “We’re honored to be named this year’s Students of the Year, and we’re grateful to have had this opportunity to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that helped our family in our time of need.”

The funds raised through Students of the Year are used for: Research to advance lifesaving therapies like immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine, which are saving lives today; Free blood cancer information, education and support for patients and families; National and local advocacy efforts driving policies that accelerate new treatments and ensure patients have access to care so that they can live longer, healthier lives.

According to LLS, blood cancers, on average, account for more than 10 percent of all new cancer cases diagnosed each year—and they’re the third leading cancer killer in the country, says LLS is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer research. While there is no way to prevent blood cancers, LLS is dedicated to finding a cure by relying on donations to fund research projects.

The teenagers said the smallest donation of $2 came from fellow students from Samir Shah’s private high school in Huntingtown.MD. Saar Shah said most donations were generally small, ranging from $25 to $100. Three fifth-graders at Calverton — Sara Chehy, Katie Mathers and Devin McClanahan — participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients fundraising program and raised $3,804, according to the Shah family.

The largest donation of $100,000 came from The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. “American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), the most dynamic and ethnic organization representing more than 100,000 physicians of Indian origin, while officially launching a campaign against Leukemia and Lymphomas, is pleased to have donated $100,000 to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America on March 10th,” declared Dr. Gautam Samadder, President of AAPI. “AAPI has taken on yet another cause to promote through its active support in educating people about the deadly disease around the world,” Samadder said.

“Continuing with supporting noble causes, AAPI, has taken on yet another cause to promote through its active support in educating people about the deadly disease around the world,” Dr. Vinod Shah, a past president of AAPI, and a well known philanthropist, said. Dr. Shah told this writer, “How proud I am to be part of this noble initiative of these two young children, who are so totally committed to the cause.” Dr. Vinod Shah had matched a$50,000 gift from AAPI, doubling the donation.

 “Coming from a nation that has given much to the world, today physicians of Indian origin have become a powerful influence in medicine across the world. It’s truly inspiring that these two young children have been leading the fund raising efforts for this noble cause, benefitting thousands of people affected by blood cancer,” said Dr. Naresh Parikh, President-Elect of AAPI.

Among the Shah family, Samir said there are about 22 doctors practicing in Southern Maryland, and they have been heavily involved with the organization over the years.  Samir Shah’s parents are both physicians in St. Mary’s, and by their estimate, there have been more than 500 active blood cancer patients diagnosed in the past two years in the tri-county area. In Amish Shah’s practice at MedStar Shah Medical Group alone, there were 400 active blood cancer patients in the past two years, the doctor said in a February interview.

Throughout the campaign, what moved Saar Shah the most was the recognition ceremony designed for those affected by blood cancer during a kite festival, hosted by their team at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds on March 17 that drew about 1,200 people. “Seeing all those names and hearing about a number of peoples’ stories, it really does seem everybody has some kind of connection to blood cancer in some way,” Saar Shah said.

The two teenagers said they plan to continue to host the kite festival around March every year. They also plan to sit on the nonprofit’s leadership council next year to help guide the new crop of students participating in the campaign. They said the advice they would give to future participants is to get the community involved with a variety of events and to start planning early.

For more info, please visit: 

  1. Fox news Report

  1. Video 2 min by Kathy Hollyer

  1. Baynet Article:

  1. SOMD News Article:

  1. Fly4aCure LLS Promotional LInk:

  1. ReCap Video upload to Youtube

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