Dani Frisch Harkin, a Rockville Centre native, has been named the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)’s New York City Woman of the Year for 2019. The Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor earned the title by raising nearly $175,000 for the organization in 10 weeks.
“I was just doing it to build awareness and raise money,” she said. “I never thought I’d win! It was a shock.”
Harkin was honored at a fundraising event at The Capitale in Manhattan on June 14. Family, friends and her entire “Team Heart Strong” campaign joined her. When her name was announced for Woman of the Year, “we jumped up screaming!” said Harkin’s mother, Roberta Frisch.
“We were surprised,” Frisch said. “Ten weeks is not an excessive amount of time to raise a lot of money.”
Harkin, 50, graduated South Side High School in 1987 and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000. Within one year, she was cancer free, but since then, she has undergone numerous medical procedures due to complications from months of chemotherapy and radiation. Most recently, she received emergency open-heart surgery and a triple bypass in 2017 and two heart stents earlier this year.
Despite her challenges, Harkin, who now lives in Manhattan, has been running marathons to raise money for LLS with the organization’s Team in Training since 2005. Harkin’s story of trials, tribulations and triumphs was featured in the April 25-May 1, 2019 edition of the Herald. She was celebrating her 50th birthday and in the midst of the 10-week fundraising campaign that earned her Woman of the Year.
“We didn’t know [how much we raised] until that night,” Harkin explained. “You just keep reaching out to people and members of the team keep reaching out to people … Money is still coming in. It’s just so nice and heartwarming.”
Olivia Morawski, a fundraising campaign manager for LLS, said she was “astonished at how many people adored [Dani] and wanted to give and give.”
“All of the candidates were amazing contenders,” Morawski said. “[Dani] has such a supportive team and backing of people who really stepped up to the plate for her.”
Funds raised for LLS benefit the organization’s work with research, advocacy and patient access, “the three pillars,” Morawski said. This includes blood cancer research and grants for new treatment technology.
Candidates for New York City Man and Woman of the Year raised more than $1.1 million in total for LLS through their campaigns. Harkin bonded with her fellow candidates at the June 14 event and celebrated their achievements, she said.
“Yes, it was a competition,” Harkin said, “but it’s not like we were going against each other. We’re all raising money for the same cause — to save lives.”