Walt Whitman High School students rally behind classmate battling cancer

Students from Walt Whitman High School hold a fundraiser to Children's National and their classmate, Ben Lesser, who is battling cancer. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Students from Walt Whitman High School hold a fundraiser to benefit Children’s National and their classmate, Ben Lesser, who is battling cancer. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Ben Lesser needs someone who matches his genetic background, part Philipino, part European, to be a bone marrow doner. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Ben Lesser needs someone who matches his genetic background — part Filipino, part European —  to be a bone marrow donor. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Ben Lesser is a cross-country runner at Walt Whitman High School who is battling cancer at Children's National. (Courtesy Walt Whitman High School)
Ben Lesser is a cross-country runner at Walt Whitman High School who is battling cancer at Children’s National. (Courtesy Walt Whitman High School)
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Students from Walt Whitman High School hold a fundraiser to Children's National and their classmate, Ben Lesser, who is battling cancer. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Ben Lesser needs someone who matches his genetic background, part Philipino, part European, to be a bone marrow doner. (WTOP/Melissa Howell)
Ben Lesser is a cross-country runner at Walt Whitman High School who is battling cancer at Children's National. (Courtesy Walt Whitman High School)

Every February, students at Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Maryland, organize events to raise money for Children’s National Medical Center. This year, the fundraiser has a more personal connection for them.

Their classmate, Ben Lesser, a senior at Walt Whitman, is battling cancer at Children’s National.

Students and supporters flooded over the Icebreaker 5K finish line Sunday morning, one of several events taking place this weekend. Many of them are for Ben.

Ben’s mother, Karen, was also a part of today’s event.

“It’s inspiring, it’s heartwarming,” she said. “He’s tough, he’s a warrior. We are confident he’s going to beat this cancer.”

In addition to donations to benefit Children’s Medical, they are also asking people to get screened as they try to find a bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) match for Ben and others battling similar illnesses.

People with an ethnic background similar to Ben’s — part Filipino and part European — between the ages of 18 and 44 are likely to be good matches.

Nikki Widra, one of Ben’s cross-country teammates, said seeing the crowds and all the support is a reminder that Ben has a whole team behind him.

“We’re all here for him and we’re rooting for him and it’s going to be OK,” Widra said.

Students are aiming to raise $50,000 from this year’s fundraisers for Children’s National Medical Center.

Anyone who wants to help them reach their goal can register to become a donor online for Ben and others in need.

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