The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year Gala

Before any of you read further, I just wanted to say that this won’t be a typical WearsByRis post. If you don’t read on, I can understand. If you do, just know that I’m thanking each and every one of you. This is something that I hold very close to my heart and I just felt that it was important that I attempt to bring it to the forefront of everyone’s attention. So to everyone who’s been sharing and commenting and tweeting and talking about WearsByRis, Thank you. I couldn’t do this without any of you. 

xoxo, Ris

Did you know that in 2016, in the United States alone, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and approximately 595,690 people will die from the disease? (

Of those 1,685,210 people, about 171,550 people will be diagnosed with either leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. That’s 10.2 percent. If you do the math, that means roughly every 3 minutes, at least one new person is diagnosed…and every 9 minutes, someone loses their battle…

For those of you who don’t know, leukemia is the cancer of the bone marrow and blood. There are four main types: acute lymphoblastic, acute myeloid, chronic lymphocytic and chronic myeloid. Lymphoma is the name for a group a blood cancers that target the lymphaic system. There are two types: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Myeloma is a cancer that begins in the bone marrow and specifically targets the white blood cells. (

This past weekend I had the distinct honor of attending The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man & Woman of the Year Gala. Although yes, I was invited, I didn’t actually have to attend if I didn’t want. But attending this gala, for me, went deeper than a pretty dress and raising awareness.

When I was five, my grandfather was diagnosed with lymphoma. Being so young, I have the displeasure of not remembering much about him. From what I can remember, though, he was a hard worker with an even softer heart. He loved all of us very much and he always did for us what he could. I’ve tried my best to model the way I care for others based on his example.

After the doctors diagnosed my grandfather’s cancer, it wasn’t too much later that we lost him. That was the only time I’ve ever seen my father cry.

Unfortunately, I know I’m not the only person with a story like this. And actually, this isn’t the only story I have like this. I’ve had cancer effect multiple family members, my friends, my friends’ family members, my friends’ friends…Cancer is neither selective nor differential. Cancer just is.

At this point, I’m sure you’re all probably wondering what the Man & Woman of the Year actually is. So each year, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society challenges individuals in communities all across the country to become dedicated candidates who engage in a competition to earn The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) “Man & Woman of the Year” title. The point of this competition is to raise awareness and fundraise for LLS blood cancer research. The candidates compete in honor of children (who are local blood cancer survivors). These children are known as the Boy & Girl of the Year. Every dollar raised counts as one vote and the titles are awarded to the man and woman with the most votes at the end of 10 weeks. The campaign runs between February and June.(MWOY).

I want to take a minute to talk about the boy and the girl of the year. If you’ve never heard of Savanna DiFatta, I’m sure you soon will. Savanna walks around and you just can’t help but smile at her. There just seems to be a light about her. She’s quick-witted and she’ll let you know what’s on her mind. She enjoys gymnastics and playing with friends and wearing pretty blue ball gowns to galas. She just turned 7. The boy of the year, little Ryan Costa, just turned 3. Ryan ran around the gala showroom with his toy trucks and I’ve never seen a little boy who was happier. He didn’t seem to have a care in the world. When his mom came to tell his story, though, we were all introduced to the pain and the long hours and the misery this little boy had to endure.

How is that possible?

Seeing two wonderful human beings, both being so young, and both overcoming so much in such a short amount of time…and they still had the biggest smiles on their faces. You didn’t see the pain; their eyes sparkled and the were genuinely happy to be around you.

That’s what got me.

I recently had a friend send me this quote: “If you can’t get someone off your mind, maybe they’re supposed to be there.” They say that if you can’t stop thinking about someone, it’s because they can’t stop thinking about you, either.

I don’t know how this got me to make a correlation with cancer, but it did. I think a lot. I mean I mostly think about useless shit. But anyway. After meeting Savanna and Ryan, I started to redirect my thoughts and began to think about everyone who has ever undergone getting diagnosed, getting surgery, getting chemo, etc. I thought about all of it. They endure so much; they try so hard. I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like. I’ve been around cancer my entire life. But to actually go through it? I just don’t know. And then sometimes, even though all of those people go through all of that, at the end, it doesn’t even matter? I can’t even fathom that.

I’m not a very religious person. I consider myself Catholic and I go to church every so often (okay, Easter and Christmas), but I’ve never outwardly professed myself to be a child of God or anything like that.

But I wonder.

What if I actively forced someone to be on my mind all the time? I don’t know. I’m sort of rambling. But what if I started praying? What if I just prayed and prayed and prayed that everything ends up okay for just one person who’s sick? Would it make a difference…? Could I help save someones life?

I mean it might be a totally far-fetched idea (I feel like you might have to be a little more religious than I am for the whole praying thing to actually work…?), but I can do other things, too. When I really sat down to think about it, I decided that I wanted to do more than just wear a pretty dress and attend galas and say that I support LLS research. All of those things are true, but I want to do my part to make a difference. I want to help save someone’s life. And if I can’t do that, maybe at least I can let someone know that they’re not in this alone. I think that’s half the battle sometimes: knowing you’re not alone.

So for those of you out there who are struggling, battling, hurting…I am here. I’m not going to stand in front of you and pretend like I know what you’re feeling, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. But I will listen. And I will help in anyway that I can.

For more information on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, please visit their website to see how you can make a difference and help save someones life.

In an effort to not take away from the severity of my message, I’m going to withhold images and specific details about the event until a later post (I do definitely owe you guys a fashion post so be on the lookout for Gala outfit details on that).

This event was being covered by multiple magazines in the tri-state area, so as soon as those articles are published, I will also include the links for anyone to read. 

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Kicks Off 2016 Campaign To Raise $700,000 in 10 Weeks

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