The leukemia and lymphoma society
March 16, 2022 By Tyler Shipman


For more than three decades, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has hosted Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY), a philanthropic competition to support cancer research, hosted in each of LLS’s more than 80 chapters across the U.S. From every corner of the country, more than 900 candidates will compete to raise the most funds to support their LLS chapter’s efforts to eradicate blood cancers. Funds raised during the campaign are in honor of two local children who are blood cancer survivors. “They are our motivation and inspiration throughout the whole campaign,” says Stephanie Darnell, Chicago’s MWOY Campaign Development Manager.

As one of the biggest and most well-known charities in the Chicagoland area, Vogelzang Law and Cancer Wellness magazine are proud to partner with LLS’s Chicago chapter. This year, Vogelzang Law had the opportunity to nominate two candidates for MWOY — Mary Kruse and Dr. Jacob Matrille. During the 10-week campaign, Kruse, Matrille, and countless others will form teams to raise funds to help LLS to continue researching innovative and life-saving treatment opportunities for all blood cancers. 

The MWOY campaign kicks off March 31, and Matrille and Kruse are ready to get to work. But this year’s campaign comes at an especially difficult time for Matrille. He just lost his uncle to cancer. “Basically, I want to do this for people like my uncle who fought and fought, and in the end it beat him,” Matrille says. A chiropractor by profession, Matrille is known by his patients and staff as being caring and competent, and always with a friendly smile. 

His demeanor makes it clear this is not Matrille’s first experience with giving back — during chiropractic school, he donated plasma regularly to help cover expenses. And about four years ago, he donated one of his kidneys to someone in need. “I have always had a passion for trying to help others improve their health,” Matrille says. “It’s really the essence of why I became a chiropractor.” After so recently losing the man who raised him, this is an especially emotionally challenging time for Matrille, and such is the story for so many others who take it upon themselves to raise funds for organizations like the LLS, providing funds needed for potentially life-saving research.

Kruse is also keeping loved ones in mind in her efforts for the MWOY campaign. Soon after becoming engaged to her husband in 2015, her mother-in-law passed away from leukemia, and she’s titled her campaign ‘Mimi’s Memory’ in her honor. “Blood cancer is so different from any other type of cancer,” Kruse says, “Because it’s in your blood, it’s everywhere. I think that’s what was really scary.”

Kruse is no stranger to charitable work, and has built a career in fundraising for education and the arts, but her MWOY nomination has given her the opportunity to enjoy a totally new experience. This is her first time working with a charity like LLS, and also marks the first time working front and center. “I’m so used to being the person who works behind the scenes,” Kruse says. “I was genuinely shocked, and really humbled, and really honored [to be nominated].”

Kruse’s professional connections and her convivial spirit have allowed her to put together a strong team to help during the MWOY campaign. “I’m really fortunate to have so many great friends in my life,” Kruse says. And she knows they’ll be up to the challenge of helping her run a successful campaign, as they have always been willing to provide time, funds, or both for Kruse’s nonprofit fundraising efforts. Kruse is also on the board of her hometown’s public library, as well as on the board of a local theater. “These are the networks I’m going to reach out to, [and] let them know it’s a very personal cause,” says Kruse. Especially because, as she says, “If you’re on a library board or if you’re in theater, you care about your community.” Kruse has already secured the details for her first event in honor of the campaign. “Bluegrass for Blood Cancer” will be held May 14 at a local brewery in St. Charles, Illinois, headlined by Kruse’s husband’s bluegrass band. 

The Man and Woman of the Year will be announced at the campaign’s grand finale event on June 11 in Chicago. This year’s finale will be extra special, as MWOY nominees and supporters will be able to attend the event in person for the first year since the onset of the pandemic. At its heart, MWOY is about bringing together a compassionate and dedicated group of people to eradicate blood cancers. “It’s really about spreading awareness,” Darnell says. “We want to keep fulfilling our mission to fight and find a cure for blood cancer.”