On Saturday mornings I sell my papers at the farmers market at the Waterfront Metro in Southwest D.C. I had the pleasure of meeting four good-looking young guys who were out to fundraise for a great cause. The name of their organization is the “Pursuit of Hoppiness” and their goal is to raise over $100,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The story starts with their friend Zach Kauffman, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year in November 2021. He was in his early twenties, in the best shape of his life, and was endurance training for a marathon. Over the span of a few short months, he started to notice some strange symptoms. He was extremely fatigued after his runs, his endurance had decreased, and he noticed a deep bone bruise that he wasn’t sure how he had gotten. He thought that he had just overworked himself but as the symptoms persisted he decided to go to the doctor to see what was wrong.
“I remember going in for a blood test, and then just coming home and passing out for hours because I was so tired … I woke up to 13 missed calls from my doctors telling me to get to an emergency room because something was wrong.” His blood test showed that his white blood cells were extremely elevated. A normal person’s white blood cell range is between 4,500- to 11,000. Zach’s range was over 100,000.
The Mayo Clinic defines leukemia as cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukemia usually involves white blood cells. The white blood cells are potent infection fighters; they normally grow and divide in an orderly way, as your body needs them. But in people with leukemia, the bone marrow produces an excessive amount of abnormal white blood cells, which don’t function properly.
Because Zach noticed his symptoms and quickly sought out answers, they were able to catch the cancer early. After a year of treatment, I’m happy to report that he is currently in remission. He attributes the success of his treatment to a newer drug; a protein inhibitor called Imatinib or Gleevec. That research was funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
“Twenty years ago leukemia was a death sentence. It is because of modern medicine and the donations that were given to the LLS that this drug was even discovered,” Zach said. It is now his mission to shed light on and gain support for others who suffer from the illness.
The group The Pursuit of Hoppiness has been holding fitness and social fundraisers across the D.C.-area for the past year in support of Zach’s story. It’s important to Zach the events are fitness related as he discovered his illness due to his love for running. The group has held volleyball games, bar crawls, softball games and runs with all proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
In October, the group organized and sold tickets to the Navy Yard’s first charity pub crawl. The event included happy hour specials at 3 different bars and the group sold 153 tickets and raised nearly $5,000. The organization is now taking a break from its outdoor fundraising efforts to focus on its apparel line which will make its debut this winter.
They have raised $34,000 and have no plans to stop, even after they reach their goal. If you’d like to know more or donate to their endeavors — please visit their website at pursuitofhoppiness.co or follow them on Instagram @poh_co.