Student honors friend with concert for pediatric cancer research
Ashwin Hazarika, a high school student from Columbia, Md., started thinking about opportunities to fundraise to support cancer research after his friend, Jamie, was diagnosed with pediatric sarcoma, a bone cancer. He initially planned to organize a virtual event on social media, but decided to host his event in person after seeing the widespread support from his school community. Ashwin enlisted his band, The Coughdrops; his friend’s mom, Mrs. Tonya; and the Parent-Teacher Student Association (PTSA) at Atholton High School to start planning the Concert to Cancel Cancer—a benefit concert where all proceeds would support the mission of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. The event included performances from The Coughdrops, a silent auction with over 60 items, and online giving opportunities for those who wanted to support the cause virtually. Ashwin remained committed to making the fundraiser successful from conception to execution because he recognized the importance of giving back to support patients like Jamie. “If we don’t fight for our friends, who will?” he shares.
Mrs. Tonya, president of Atholton High School’s PTSA, believed in Ashwin’s concert plans from the beginning. She reached out to Dana-Farber to discuss how to direct the funds toward research into pediatric sarcoma, and advised Ashwin on how to seek donations and event participation from members of their local community.
“We had to plan ahead to get approval to use the auditorium, then set up the equipment for the concert, such as speakers, microphones, and lights as it got closer to the event day,” he says. Another major priority was partnering with family, friends, and bandmates to ensure people were aware of the concert. “I reached out to all of my friends from other schools, handed out flyers to neighbors and local business owners, and shared the link for donations via social media. Mrs. Tonya, my parents, and my bandmates shared event details with their own networks as well.”
The Atholton and greater Columbia community enthusiastically supported Ashwin by helping to spread the word, volunteering, and donating. “While there was wonderful support from the school, the majority of the help and donations came from our neighborhood and the family and friends of Jamie,” Mrs. Tonya explains. “There were many people who donated and didn’t know Jamie personally. They just wanted to help in any way that they could.” She describes their community as tight-knit and filled with people who want to lend a helping hand and support causes like the lifesaving mission of Dana-Farber.
The concert took place in the Atholton High School auditorium on May 21, 2022. Friends, family, classmates, and even strangers came together to show their support for Jamie. The concert exceeded Ashwin and Mrs. Tonya’s expectations, raising more than $12,000 to support cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber—double the original fundraising goal.
When asked what advice she would have for fellow Jimmy FundRaisers, Mrs. Tonya shares: “Give yourself at least three to four months before your event! Utilize the online fundraising page right away, that way even as you are starting to promote the idea, people can donate immediately.” Mrs. Tonya also recommends having three types of fundraising income: an online fundraising page before the event, the physical event where people can donate at the door, and opportunity drawings or a silent auction to continue to generate incremental income once participants are at the event.
Ashwin encourages other youth and teen fundraisers is to be proactive in their fundraising efforts and make a personal connection with those who are supporting the cause. “You must follow up with people who you seek donations from,” he shares. “Personally, reaching out to potential donors and sponsors and making the time to talk with them and thank them for their support will make your event a success.”
Jamie was touched when he learned that Ashwin was planning the event in his honor. He and his family are amazed by the generosity and support from their community. Though Ashwin considers the Concert to Cancel Cancera success, he notes that planning and organizing an event is not easy. “It is an initiative that takes lots of time and effort, but seeing your event come to life and knowing that we are supporting a cause like Dana-Farber makes you feel amazing and makes it all worth it.”
If you are interested in hosting your own virtual or in-person event for the Jimmy Fund, fill out our online inquiry form or contact our community events team at JimmyFundEvents@dfci.harvard.edu.
Help support these efforts by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.