The Magic of a Blue Lollipop

“I started the Blue Lollipop Project because when I heard Ty’s story, I knew I had to do something,” said Riley Damiano.  “I learned so much about childhood cancer and I couldn’t just walk away from it.”

Riley is not your typical 16-year-old.  When Riley was just nine years old, she was touched by the story of a child in her community who was battling brain cancer named Ty Campbell.  She related to his love for blue lollipops and the smile they could bring to his face when sharing the color transformation on his lips and tongue.  She too, was always inclined to choose a blue lollipop over all other colors for that same reason.  For Ty, it was such a small and simple thing, but it brought a smile to his face when there wasn’t much else to smile about.

Riley has since launched the Blue Lollipop Project in his memory, and she has been running this campaign for more than five years. What started as a Bat Mitzvah project in 2013 has become a nationwide fundraising campaign most recently recognized by Ashoka for her social entrepreneurship.

The concept is wonderful.  For every dollar donated, the donor walks away with a blue lollipop knowing that a blue lollipop will also be sent to a child with cancer.  At the same time, the money donated benefits childhood cancer research, much of which funded the Children’s Brain Tumor Project at Weill Cornell Medicine through the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation.

Riley is now 16-years old and applying to colleges. She has visited the lab at Weill Cornell Medicine for inspiration, and she is most interested in pursuing a career in research.  People who meet Riley always comment on how she is wise beyond her years.

Kids go through a lot of changes from nine years old to sixteen, yet Riley has never lost momentum for this initiative.  In fact, she is now more passionate than ever.  Riley’s social media is filled with little kids showing off their blue tongues, children in treatment opening her care packages, and inspirational messages – not selfies.  That’s because she is, indeed, a most selfless person.

In a recent interview, Riley said “If I could change one thing, I wish that I had started earlier.  There is no age that’s too young to be a changemaker.”


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