LSU students aim for national prize with unique PR campaign for good cause

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Up to 20% of young cancer patients are diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, every year, but it’s one of the least common cancers that people talk about. 

Alaina Maiorana was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when she was only 15.

“At 15, you don't really think about life and death,” Maiorana said. “It's always just kind of looking towards the next thing, like homecoming, prom, Sadie Hawkins.”

She often felt alone as a teenager in Houma, undergoing rough chemo treatments and surgeries to battle the blood cancer.

“You always see breast cancer awareness, ovarian cancer, but there's not much awareness of lymphoma, even though it's one of the most common cancers, especially younger people,” Maiorana said.

Maiorana made a promise to herself to change that, and a group of LSU students are striving to raise awareness about the disease as well. 

This group, known as the LSU Bateman Team, meets weekly to fine-tune a local public relations campaign for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. 

In addition to advocating for awareness and donations, they are also using the campaign to take home a national prize.

“We're also competing against 75 universities that are working with the same client right now,” said Bateman Team Captain, Hannah Michel Hanks. 

With that many teams, a unique message is key, and Dr. Jay Saux is the inspiration behind this message.

Saux is an oncologist in Covington known as the “Pirate Doctor.” He treats all of his patients dressed up as a pirate to distract them from pain or anxiety.

“I am now redirecting the attention off of this scary thing onto this weird pirate doctor thing,” Saux said. 

The team used Saux's concept for their campaign name--Crew for a Cure--and slogan--"Make lymphoma walk the plank."

Dr. Sanjay Juneja, an oncologist in Baton Rouge, is also helping the group with the campaign. His 485,000 fans on Tik Tok refer to him as the “Onc-Doc.”

“I have a bunch of things planned for Instagram and TikTok to hopefully help all those people and kids and children and young adults that are going through this,” Juneja said.

The Bateman Team is hoping for a national win, but the team says it has a bigger goal. 

“We just want to raise awareness for the fact that young people can get it and for the fact that fundraising is the key to improving lymphoma outcomes in the future,” Michel said. 

Maiorana hopes this campaign will remind patients like her they are not alone. 

“I thought cancer was a death sentence, but you can beat it, you can get through it,” Maiorana said. 

Crew for a Cure is hosting a Pirate Party Wednesday from noon to 4:00 p.m. in the LSU Journalism Building.

The Baton Rouge community is invited to donate, play games, and learn more about lymphoma.



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