Team In Our Blood: Burlingame juniors tap into digital entrepreneurship skills


Photo courtesy of Alvina Chow

Although the digital format has made team meetings more challenging, co-candidates Alvina Chow, Ann Ding and Katherine Hsia try to keep everyone engaged through special shoutouts and by encouraging all members to share their progress on their personal campaign initiatives.

Caroline Yeow, Senior Reporter

The Students of the Year program, hosted by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), is a philanthropic competition for high school students who participate by running campaigns in order to raise funds for blood cancer treatment and research. Burlingame juniors Alvina Chow, Ann Ding and Katherine Hsia entered the competition as co-candidates in February, and started “Team In Our Blood” to run various fundraising events in order to achieve their goal of $18,000. 

After hearing about the program from a friend, Chow researched the LLS and was inspired by the charity’s values. The story of this year’s “Honored Hero,” Kabir Taunk, an 8-year-old boy diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, also deeply resonated with Chow. 

“Through [the LLC] he got treated for it, but then a few years later, it relapsed, but then this time he had his little brother as a donor. And just like hearing his story was really impactful and heartwarming. We thought it was a really great cause to support and we were really happy to do this program,” Chow said.

Backed by their team of 13 members, made up of Burlingame teachers, students and local church leaders, Team In Our Blood executed a fundraiser with Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in San Mateo, with the team earning a portion of the proceeds. 

The team is currently holding a Krispy Kreme fundraiser, where donors can purchase gift certificates on a website created by Team In Our Blood. 

Although social distancing has made fundraising initiatives difficult to execute, it has also prompted the team to broaden their thinking about ways to reach people. Rather than more conventional physical hand-out flyers, each member manages their own online fundraising page. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has given us many options that allow us to reach far beyond our Bay Area communities. Through our online fundraising page and the Krispy Kreme Digital Dozen, we can connect with people all over the country,” Ding said.

During the first week of the campaign, Team In Our Blood focused their efforts on getting corporate sponsorships, a difficult endeavor for student campaigns. After meeting with a few companies, the team secured three sponsorships, boosting their confidence for the remainder of the campaign. 

“[It required] contacting and interacting with professional adults in high corporate positions, which was quite daunting to me,” Ding said. “We had heard from our campaign manager that finding a company sponsorship is difficult and rare. However, we took on the challenge and succeeded in meetings with our family members’ companies… they were still able to make huge monetary contributions to our cause and provided comforting encouragement and fuel for us to continue persevering.”.

Co-candidates Chow, Ding and Hsia have all faced similar challenges in entrepreneurship. Working on their campaign prompted them to tap into their leadership, organizational and communication skills. From learning about finance, to keeping track of countless conversations and connections, the co-candidates admit the campaign has been taxing, but also very rewarding. 

“I have had to step into the shoes of a working adult… I’ve learned so many things regarding selling goods, encouraging individuals, constructing messages of gratitude to donors, empathizing with others in thinking about how they would respond to our events, and so much more,” Ding said.  

As a final closing event to the campaign, which ends on March 27, the team plans to hold a silent auction with items donated from companies. 

Although the competition is fundraiser-based, with the team that raises the most funds winning the title of Students of the Year, Chow says bringing attention to blood cancers, the most common form of cancer in children and teens, is the most important function of their project. 

For more information about Team In Our Blood, visit