LEONARDTOWN, Md. — Just a few years ago, a team of Southern Maryland teens with big dreams made a small difference in the medical world. Taking part in a national fundraising effort which was sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society(LLS), a team of local high school students hosted a kite festival to begin raising money towards their fundraising goal.

A few months later, and Team Fly4ACure had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research. Samir and Saar Shah were named the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Maryland Student of the Year,” while also receiving national recognition.

Fast forward one year later, and the siblings of those original team candidates were able to replicate the original team’s fundraising success, and even topped it by about $33,000. Neelam Shah and Naggena Ohri would go on to receive those same honors.

Now, although not related to the Shah’s dynasty of LLS fundraisers, Manasa Iswara and Hemani Kumar feel they are prepared to take over Team Fly4ACure in a year unlike any of recent history, with 15 fellow female friends assisting.

“I think it’s different circumstances, honestly, because there are different obstacles that we face compared to [last year’s] campaign,” Kumar said. “Obviously, we want to be realistic with our goals, even though we are very competitive people. We’re just realistic with our connections and how the pandemic has affected businesses around us, and how people are maybe financially coping right now. So we don’t really want to push too hard, but we definitely are setting realistic goals.”

With a preliminary fundraising goal of $50,000, they are “being realistic” while still hoping to shatter that number. Unfortunately for the team, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fundraising playbook from years past.

“[A] cool thing about the fact that we are living in a virtual world right now is, we can focus especially a lot more on the fact that our virtual fundraising webpages are available globally,” Iswara explained. “And a lot of our team members and the two of us ourselves have people that we know who live in other countries and other states. And this allows us to communicate with them and involve people who live farther away from St. Mary’s County.”

In past years, teams have allowed events to bolster their fundraising efforts such as festivals or recitals. However, accounting for all the safety precautions this year makes having in-person events nearly impossible. This has led the team to host a series of virtual events such as the first this weekend: Magic4ACure with Reggie Rice.

“Anything helps,” Kumar said. “If you’re not able to donate, it would be awesome to spread the word… And we win when cancer loses.”

Tickets for the virtual fundraiser which will take place this Saturday [Jan. 23], are still on sale. Click HERE to purchase tickets.

To learn more about the team or to donate to them, click HERE.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to cure blood cancers but also improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Every three minutes someone is diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, and LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research aimed at helping these patients live longer healthier lives. Visit their website by going to

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