Unite to fight team pictured left to right:(front) Mary Kate Price, Maeve Ransom, Jane Finley, Ava Ransom, Ellie LaMotte, Reegan O’Leary, Leila Psota (back) Audrey Ray, Olivia Reed, Grace Ospelt, Kendall Sirignano, Carli Mednelow, Owen Meadows, Cooper Lyons. Not pictured Olivia Doland, Claire Blevins


Senior Ava Ransom is leading the fight at Bay High School against cancer.

Ransom is leading a group at Bay High that includes her close friends Jane Finley and Claire Blevins and 13 other students to raise the most money in the area and earn the title of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Students of the Year” fundraising competition.

“I decided to do this because I’ve seen so many people affected,” said Ransom, 18. “I wanted to do something to help them.”

The Students of the Year program is an annual seven-week philanthropic leadership development initiative hosted by the society that gives students a chance to develop skills such as entrepreneurship, marketing and project management. Whoever raises the most money is awarded the title of Students of the Year, according to the organization’s website.

Ransom’s group, “Unite to Fight,” is made up of 15 Bay High School students. Its goal is to raise $100,000 by March 13. The group will have another fundraiser March 8 at Thyme Table, 583 Dover Center Road in Bay Village.

Cancer has left an impression on the leaders of “Unite to Fight.” Blevins, a senior, was diagnosed with leukemia in the 10th grade just a few days after her 16th birthday. She endured months of chemotherapy and is cancer free.

Finley beat her first diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the body’s lymphatic system, when she was 13. But she relapsed a few years later, and beat it again. Afterward, she said she made it her goal to raise awareness about it for the rest of her life.

‘It opened my eyes that this is something that I’m meant to do and supporting those around me that are affected by it,” said Finley, a senior.

Every day, 170 Americans are diagnosed with leukemia and 220 are diagnosed with lymphoma. An estimated 68,000 people will die from these diseases, according to statistics from the Leukemia Research Foundation.

Cases of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma accounted for about 10% of the 1.76 million cancer cases diagnosed in 2019, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website.

The organization’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. Since its creation in 1949, the organization has donated about $1.3 billion to research and created the competition six years ago.

The Bay High group began planning for this campaign in August. A letter-writing campaign, fundraisers at Mahall’s in Lakewood and a yoga event at Inner Bliss Yoga Studio in Westlake site, helped the group $40,000.

Bay Village became active in its fundraising efforts three years ago when Finley introduced the contest to Principal Jason Martin. Last year Bay raised $79,500 for the society. The high school faces competition from Magnificat High School in Rocky River and schools in Avon and Avon Lake.

“To find a program out there that creates leadership opportunities for students and promotes philanthropy and service and to develop fundraising skills is a win win for us,” Martin said. “There are a lot of life skills that come from the ‘Student of the Year’ campaign that they will carry on even after it’s over.”

Heather Ransom believes that being active in this campaign made perfect sense for her daughter.

“Ava is the kind of person that when she sees a person in pain or in need, she just feels it deeply and wants to help,” her mother said. “She wants to be part of the solution.”

Ava Ransom, Finley and Blevins hope that even after they graduate and leave the community they will continue to rally around each other and fight against cancer.

“You see a lot of things fade out, but I really feel like this is something that will stick with us and our class for a really long time,” Finley said.

To support Unite To Fight, visit Ransom also accepts donations through mail at 6111 Oak Tree Blvd. Suite 130, Independence, Ohio.

Contact this reporter at or 440-871-5797.

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