By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Sonny Tropeano’s life and legacy continue to make a positive impact on those who knew him.
Lynnfield High School senior Sahil Akhter and LHS junior Brendan Sokop are participating in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s New England “Student Visionaries of the Year” program for the purpose of raising funds for pediatric blood cancer research. According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Student Visionaries of the Year is a “groundbreaking philanthropic leadership development program for high school students.”
“The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and ensuring access to the best available therapies for all blood cancer patients,” said Sahil. “Our mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Student Visionaries of the Year is our opportunity to support children with cancer, patients struggling through the pandemic and survivors.”
Sahil and Brendan are holding the fundraiser in memory of Sonny Tropeano, who passed away suddenly from T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma at the age of 10 in July 2015. Sahil was good friends with Sonny, who would have been a LHS senior this year. Brendan played youth soccer with Sonny.
“Our team name is Team Sonny in memory of my close childhood friend, Sonny Tropeano,” said Sahil. “Sonny was a close friend of mine and I wear a bracelet in memory of him every day. I was inspired to honor my friend due to the conditions of his passing, and I wanted to do something significant in his memory.”
Sahil and Brendan’s fundraiser is also honoring 6-year-old Raelyn Augusto.
“Raelyn is from Lincoln, Rhode Island,” said Sahil. “In fall of 2021, when she was 5-years-old, Raelyn was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After months of chemotherapy and radiation, she received a bone marrow transplant in July of 2022. Although she is still in recovery and must remain isolated due to the increased risk of infection, she continues to stay strong and determined throughout this journey. Raelyn has made the best of every admission and doctor’s visit, making beautiful connections with every person she meets. Our fundraiser will spread Raelyn’s story and will help countless children just like her.”
“Our campaign has been dedicated to pediatric cancer research,” said Brendan. “Reaching our goal of $30,000 would allow us to fund a research grant dedicated to researching child cancer such as Raelyn’s.”
Brendan noted that the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society funds “cutting-edge research” that has led to “breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine that are improving and saving the lives of patients.”
“The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society provides free education and support for blood cancer patients and families, including personalized, one-on-one support, assistance with identifying and enrolling in clinical trials and more,” said Brendan. “The society mobilizes thousands of advocates to drive policy changes that accelerate the development of new cancer treatments and break down barriers to care.”
Brendan noted that cancer impacts millions of people from around the world. He said finding a cure is critically important to him and Sahil.
“Millions upon millions of people struggle each year because of cancer,” said Brendan. “Sahil and I believe that our help can make a huge impact. Twenty-five other teams around New England are doing the same work we do. Out of the 26 combined teams, our goal is to raise $500,000. We want to be a part of the fight, as well as to inspire others to fight against cancer. It gives the community hope.”
Sahil said the seven-week fundraiser runs through Sunday, April 2. Over the course of the fundraiser, he said Team Sonny is looking to “raise funds and spread awareness.”
“The fundraising itself consists of sending emails to potential donors, holding fundraising events and selling merchandise,” said Sahil.
Brendan noted that Team Sonny is selling apparel as part of the fundraiser. He said wristbands cost $2, masks cost $5 and T-shirts cost $15.
“The money will go directly to the fundraiser,” said Brendan.
In order to raise awareness about the fundraiser, Brendan said Team Sonny has created an Instagram page called “lls_lynnfield.”
“To make a donation, people can visit the account and the link to Sahil’s personal fundraising page is open for donations in the biography section,” said Brendan. “We are also selling sweatshirts in honor of Sonny. Prices will start at $60, and every week they will move up, so make sure to check out the Instagram account now. The money will go straight to the fundraiser.”
If residents want to donate to Team Sonny’s fundraiser, they can visit Sahil’s fundraising page at https://events.lls.org/ma/svoyboston23/sakhter or Brendan’s fundraising page at https://events.lls.org/ma/svoyboston23/bsokop.