Baseball teammates have set a big fundraising goal to fight cancer. They have their reasons

What goals did you have as a 16 or 17 year old?

Looking for work?

Go to university?

Buy a car?

Getting a date for the spring party?

How about this for a target? Raise $100,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in seven weeks.

That’s the task 16-year-old Max Druckman and 17-year-old Ryan Lemberger have taken on after seeing firsthand the impact cancer has on their own families. Their fundraiser begins on Thursday, January 27, and continues through March 19.

A native of Manalapan, Druckman is a junior catcher and member of the Freehold Township baseball program. Lemberger, a junior from Freehold, played junior varsity baseball at Freehold Borough. Lemberger attends Communications High School in Wall. They are teammates of a travel ball team called the Freehold Iron Pigs.

True baseball junkies, they called their 20-man fundraising squad “Team Grand Slam.”

“We’d like to get it out of the park, so to speak,” Lemberger said. “We’ve encouraged our friends from our baseball teams to get involved. Our goal is to raise awareness with their help as well.” If the $100,000 goal seems far-fetched, think again. “A team raised $300,000 two years ago,” Drukman said. “Last year the winning team raised $100,000, so that’s the goal we set ourselves.”

Druckman and Lemberger have been involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for five years. They were part of a Light The Night event that raised $50,000.

“We’re a good team,” Druckman said.

When Team Grand Slam raises $50,000, Druckman and Lemberger get their names tied to a cancer research grant.

While fundraising is important, for the duo it’s about more than that.

Lemberger and Druckman are candidates for the Students of the Year Award presented by Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The award goes to the team of students who raise the most money in their community. The winning team will then advance to a national fundraising competition.

“We want to inspire the next generation,” said Lemberger. “The fundraising supports research and treatment. Our generation can pay it in advance.

“Max and I are both competitive and would love to win, but we also know that we are on the right track whether we win or not.”

According to the LLS website, the fundraising is “a philanthropic leadership development program designed specifically for high school students.”

“We want to inspire the next generation,” said Lemberger. “The fundraising supports research and treatment. Our generation can pay it in advance.

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website, one person in the United States is diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma every three minutes. According to facts and figures released by the American Cancer Society, cancer remained the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. In the US, a total of 1.9 million new cancers and 609,360 cancer deaths will occur by 2022, which equates to approximately 1,670 deaths per day.

So while progress has been made, there is still a lot more to do.

Lemberger said New Jersey is divided into a North and South region. Team Grand Slam sits in the South with 13 other teams.

“Our team is made up of several generations,” said Lemberger. “There may be younger siblings, parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents.”

The challenge and ultimately the learning experience is what students reap by planning events, seeking sponsors, and reaching out to business owners and leaders for support.

As if Druckman and Lemberger didn’t have enough reason to be involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, there’s another – it’s personal.

dr. Scott Druckman, Max’s father, is a family physician in Jackson. Scott Druckman was diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia at age 40. Max Druckman was two years old when his father was first diagnosed. In the past 14 years, Scott Druckman’s leukemia has recurred twice, requiring more intensive treatment each time. “Fortunately, he is now in good health,” said Max Druckman.

Lemberger’s mother, Elisa, has recently undergone successful treatment for breast cancer.

“I found out how many people cancer affects,” Lemberger said.

“I learned that I was helping not only my father, but many others,” Druckman said. “The $100,000 would help a lot of families.”

Druckman and Lemberger said they have three fundraising events planned.

  • Feb. 17 at Jersey Freeze, Route 9 & 33, Freehold: Team Grand Slam receives 20 percent of sales for customers citing the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
  • Feb. 22 at Chipotle Restaurant, 323 West Main Street, Freehold: Team Grand Slam gets 33 percent of sales to individuals named Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
  • March 7 at Patricia’s of Holmdel Italian Restaurant, Holmdel Commons, 2132 NJ-35: Team Grand Slam receives all proceeds from that business day.

For more information about the Students of the Year project or to make a donation, visit https://events.lls.org/snj/southjerseysoy22/team-grand-slam

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Joe Zedalis covers high school sports for NJ.com. He can be reached at jzedalis@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Josephzedalis

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