Independence teen honored by Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A William Chrisman High School sophomore is being recognized for his philanthropic work to help fight cancer.

Tanner Jolley, 16, was recently named Student of the Year by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The organization is near and dear to his heart.

Jolley's brother, Trevor, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2009; Trevor was just three at the time.

"Hearing that your sibling has cancer, or, for my parents, your son has cancer was one of the most heartbreaking things," Jolley said. "I didn't understand it or know what it was, but I knew that it was something that could cause a lot of problems.

Jolley said his brother had to undergo chemotherapy and take steroids; Trevor also needed a feeding tube at one point during his treatment.

"It affected his mood," Jolley said. "It made him mad a lot. He just wasn't himself and you could see it."

Almost a decade later, Trevor is five years off treatment.

"Watching him beat it was a huge accomplishment," Jolley said. "The chance of it coming back has greatly depleted."

Trevor's experience pushed Jolley to not only learn more about cancer but to also make a difference.

"Trevor was the drive behind all of us – me and my whole family – to do this campaign," Jolley said.

Jolley, who participates in track and cross country at Chrisman, entered the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's student of the year competition. With the help of his family, Jolley organized a 5k race and several fundraisers, including bingo, bowling and skating nights.

"My original goal was $10,000 and, just 2-3 weeks into it, we realized we needed to bump it up," Jolley said.

Jolley raised $28,220 during the 7-week period allotted for the competition.

"He's an impressive young man," Jason Stacy, assistant track coach at Chrisman, said. "When he's driven for some something, he succeeds."

Stacy, who works with Jolley on a regular basis, called Jolley "naturally gifted" and said he wasn't surprised by his successful campaign.

"To be successful in sports or really anything, it takes work," Stacy said. "It takes drive and the focus and will and he put all of that into what he did."

Jolley said he didn't compete for the title to gain recognition. Instead, he wanted to serve as a role model to his brother who said has been an inspiration in his life.

"Hard work and effort will always give back to you," Jolley said.

Jolley was one of nine finalists in the running for the student of the year title. As part of the prize, he received a $2,500 scholarship and the science program at Chrisman High received a $2,500 grant.

Learn more about Jolley and his brother's journey here.