Best Friends Raise Thousands for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year Fundraiser

When Jordan Simpson and Stephanie Carroll met in college at Texas A&M University, they knew they would be friends. The two women lived in the same apartment complex, and their hobbies and senses of humor matched perfectly.

“We just knew that we’d be a part of each other’s lives for a long time,” Jordan says.

The two didn’t know, however, how close they would become. 

Now Jordan and Stephanie are connected through Woman of the Year, a competitive fundraiser put on by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Gulf Coast Chapter that aims to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research. Jordan currently holds the title, which she took from Stephanie’s record-setting 2017 run.

It all started with Stephanie’s daughter, Drew, who was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014. 

“It was so hard,” Stephanie says. “I kind of zoned out; I would cry alone in my car. I had to be strong for her.”

When she was nominated by a friend from high school to participate in the LLS Woman of the Year, it was impossible for her to say no. She had the means, she had the time and she had the personal connection through her daughter. 

What she didn’t have were the donations, but that would change.

“We were overwhelmed with the support,” Stephanie says. “We got so many $200 donations. And I know it’s because of my daughter; so many people had wanted to help us and didn’t know how before, so they showed up in a big way during the fundraiser.”

Stephanie, who ultimately took in $290,000 and was named 2017 Woman of the Year, says people she didn’t even know that well would email and offer $500.

As for Jordan, her time in the spotlight came the next year when Stephanie nominated her. Jordan’s connection was slightly less personal than Stephanie’s, but her experience with fundraising meant she knew exactly what to do. Coming from a professional background working for SkyHigh, a pediatric cancer charity in Houston, Jordan was able to leverage her network of donors to give Stephanie’s Woman of the Year title a run for the money.

“I was blessed and fortunate enough to get corporate donations from companies and my parents’ friends,” Jordan says. “They’re all very good people and were very willing to help.” 

Looking back on the experience, the two women say that campaigning for Woman of the Year was a personal and unique experience for both of them.

“Your campaign is what you make it,” Stephanie says, noting that she normally wouldn’t consider herself outgoing enough to organize the kind of events and activities that Woman of the Year required.

“If you want to raise a lot of money, you have to reach out to a massive amount of people,” Jordan says. “I was very dedicated.”

In the end, Jordan’s efforts paid off. She raised $365,000, breaking the local chapter’s record and placing second nationally, and claiming the 2018 Woman of the Year title. Making it twice as nice, Drew was named 2018 Girl of the Year.

And more importantly, Drew—whose cancer had gone into remission a couple years before—was holding strong. She still is, Stephanie says, and even though it’s scary, her family is going to make it.

“We’ll get to the end of this together,” she says.