Avi Nessim never met the grandfather he was named after, but he has raised nearly $20,000 in his honor since the fifth grade to help find a cure for the blood cancer that killed him more than 40 years ago.
“He just always said, ‘I’m doing this for grandpa Abraham,’” Karen Nessim, his mother, said on Thursday.
Since then the chances of survival have improved starkly, Avi Nessim, a 15-year-old North Shore Hebrew Academy sophomore, said, with the chances of survival being over 90 percent and a final cure possible within his lifetime.
“It’s great. It just makes me so happy,” Nessim said. “Back when my grandfather was alive, there was a 3 percent survival rate.”
Now Nessim is once more trying to raise as much money as he can for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, a charitable organization focused on funding blood cancer research, education and services.
This is the second year in a row Nessim has been chosen to participate in its Students of the Year campaign, the first time being last year when he led “Team Cancer Busters,” where high school students raise money for the society over a seven-week period.
Joining him this year are his younger siblings Jacob and Gabi, as well as his friend Ashley Gordon, who is fundraising in honor of a cousin, and her younger sisters Kaylie and Emily. The two friends also invited several other people, many of whom they have gone to school with.
“At the moment, we have some very dedicated teammates,” Nessim said.
Together they form “The A Team,” Karen Nessim said, referring to the first letters of Avi Nessim and Ashley Gordon’s names, as well as grandfather Abraham Nessim.
“It’s incredible how they feel so close to him and yet they’ve never met him,” Nessim said of her father-in-law. “It’s pretty incredible.”
The campaign kicked off on March 8, and will continue until April 26. In addition to direct donations, they will hold three donation day fundraisers – one on Wednesday at California Pizza Kitchen in Westbury, another on March 27 at Shake Shack in Westbury, and a third at Moe’s Southwest Grill in Oceanside on April 8.
Avi Nessim said fundraising involves a big commitment and is not always easy. But for anyone reluctant to try fundraising, Nessim said it pays off.
“It’s definitely not easy. But keep in mind, you’re saving people’s lives,” he said.
As for what he plans to do next year, Nessim said he hopes to keep fundraising for the group throughout high school and beyond.
“I think I’m still going to be constantly helping them out,” Nessim said.