Lake Oswego's Kyra Bussanich may be known for her sweet gluten-free treats and her four victories on Food Network's "Cupcake Wars," but this weekend the bake shop owner is launching into yet another competitive arena: using her time and talents to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
Bussanich, who owns Kyra's Bake Shop in Lake Oswego, is one of seven local candidates competing for the title of LLS Man and Woman of the Year. The fundraising competition runs March 10-May 20 and also honors the Boy and Girl of the Year — local children who are blood cancer survivors.
The campaign begins Friday in a dual event — the LLS Student of the Year Grand Finale and the Man and Woman of the Year Kickoff — that is scheduled from 6-10 p.m. at The Exchange Ballroom, 123 N.E. 3rd Ave. in Portland.
Local high schoolers — including Lakeridge High School students Lily Barna and Seba Marin-Quiros and West Linn students Beloved Ulinwa and Luca Piscitello — have spent seven weeks fundraising and competing to become the Students of the Year.
The student winners will be announced at Friday's event, which also includes a silent auction, sit-down dinner and speeches from blood cancer survivors and others, says Julie Davidson, a Lake Oswego resident and senior campaign manager for the regional chapter's Man and Woman of the Year competition.
"I'm looking forward to celebrating all that the students have done and raised over the last seven weeks, and seeing the Man and Woman of the Year candidates get inspired about all that they're going to do over the next 10 weeks," she says.
This year's candidates bring a variety of backgrounds to the competition.
Bussanich is partnering with Lakeridge Junior High eighth-grader Anna Seely — a survivor of acute myeloid leukemia and the LLS Girl of the Year — to create a special "Anna's Cure" cupcake that she'll sell at her bakery during the month of April to raise money for the LLS. The chocolate cupcake features a few of Anna's favorite things, including orange buttercream filling, raspberry frosting, a sparkly pink cherry blossom flower and an orange leukemia awareness ribbon. All profits from the cupcake sales will support the LLS.
In addition to Bussanich, the competition also includes Patti Costello of Beaverton; Denise Bynoe and Dr. Yale Popowich of Portland; Eric Post of Happy Valley; and Paige Spratt and Dr. Derek McTyier of Vancouver.
Costello is a film-industry wardrobe stylist who was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2013 and finds inspiration in Seattle Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman. Bynoe is a Dreamliner 787 pilot for United Airlines who lost her mom to cancer and is raising funds in her mother's memory.
Popowich is a cancer survivor and the founding member and top surgeon at the Portland Plastic Surgery Group, the chief of plastic surgery at Providence St. Vincent's Hospital and the president of the Oregon Society of Plastic Surgeons. Post is a Marine Veteran and the vice president of Better Homes and Gardens Realty in Oregon.
Spratt, a construction-industry attorney for Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt and one of the Vancouver Business Journal's "40 under 40" for 2016, is running her campaign to honor her father-in-law, who is living with a blood cancer. And McTyier is an optometrist and co-owner of Vancouver Vision Clinic who does a bit of sketch comedy on the side.
"The reality is, cancer touches everybody," Davidson says. "It's wonderful to see candidates from many different industries stepping up to take that challenge on."
The national Man and Woman of the Year competition started in 1990 and has been held locally for 12 years. Since its inception, the program has raised more than $222 million, Davidson says.
The LLS is a nationwide program that supports blood cancer research and provides patients with access to treatments.
In addition to the Man and Woman of the Year competition, LLS hosts other annual events such as the Student Series fundraising campaign; the Light the Night fundraising walk; and the Team in Training program, which allows people to support the society as they train for running, walking, hiking, climbing, cycling and triathlon events.
For Bussanich, the cause is also a personal one; one of her friends from high school lost his three-year-old son, Henry, to an infant form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013. She says that through her campaign, entitled "Remembering Henry," she hopes to raise $150,000 to have a research grant named in his honor.
"I want (his life) to carry on," she says.
As part of her campaign, she's working with Portland and Lake Oswego BurnCycle owner Jessi Duley to host a fundraising day at the Lake Oswego studio on March 11. Throughout that day, Bussanich will sell "Anna's Cure" cupcakes at the studio, and Duley will donate all class proceeds to LLS.
At Kyra's Bake Shop, Bussanich will recognize individual customer donations by writing donors' names on LLS blood drop symbols and sticking them to the wall. She and Anna also may work with some Lake Oswego schools to explore the possibility of selling the "Anna's Cure" cupcakes on campus.
"I come into contact with a lot of people every day," she says. "Even if we only raise $34, it'll be $34 for cancer research."