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Helping Others Always Pays Off: An Interview with Reese Coughlin and Vivian Derby

Written by John White

Reese Coughlin and Vivian Derby are currently sophomores at Hauppauge High School.  Last year, as freshmen, they formed a team of like-minded students called “Hauppauge Strong” and conducted a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  With guidance from school administration and support from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society their efforts really paid off.  This undertaking was personal for Reese whose family has been directly impacted by lymphoma.  Vivian also has a family member impacted by cancer.  We spoke to both women together about their efforts.

Q: Tell us about Hauppauge Strong.

We have family members who have been diagnosed with lymphoma or other cancers and wanted to do something to help contribute to finding a cure.  The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society was a natural extension for that effort and they have an active program where they reach out to students to help in their fundraising. Many teams are formed across the area to raise money.  We recruited a lot of our friends and classmates to help in a variety of activities.  Hauppauge Strong was the name we gave to our team.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in building the team?

None really.  We asked our friends to help and they asked some of their friends to join in.  Altogether we ended up with about 30 people on the team.  Our families were really important in helping out and Mr. Gagliardi, the vice-principal, was very helpful too.  They were our inspiration.

Q: What were some of the activities you put together?

The big one was revenue from restaurants.  We contacted local restaurants and set up dining nights where a certain percent of their revenue on a given day or night would be donated back to Hauppauge Strong for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  That was the biggest earner for us.  It even included take-out meals which was a big part of the sales during the COVID pandemic.  Some gave us an actual discount on dining as well. The restaurants were terrific to work with.

Q: What else did you do?

We sold cookie kits and cupcake kits to the students and faculty and also had a hot chocolate-athon.  We also set up a website with the Society where people in the community could make direct contributions to our effort.

Q: How much funding were you able to raise for the Society?

All together we raised about $22,000.  And we were recognized by the Society for our efforts.

Q: Will you do it again this year and, if so, what will you do differently?

Oh, definitely.  We have already filed the application with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  We are hoping that with more people dining out now (compared to last year) we can raise even more money.  We think we can also reach more restaurants with a face-to-face request.  A lot of our effort last year was via email and there were quite a few places that didn’t respond at all.

Q: What was the most important thing you both learned through this?

We need to start earlier with the project and involve the school more.  We are not ready to say we have a cure yet, but we learned that helping others always pays off.

Our interviewer, John White, is a long time Hauppauge resident who recently retired from a rewarding career as a pharmacist, clinician, and pharmaceutical industry consultant.  In addition to his work with the Hauppauge Public Library, John volunteers his time with St. Thomas More’s youth ministry and the Boy Scouts of America.  In his spare time, John is an avid reader, an active runner, and loves to travel.

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