A Sandy Springs woman recently raised more than $337,000 for blood cancer research and was honored as the national Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Woman of the Year.

Jessica Paulen Goldich raised the money with the help of family, friends, and coworkers in memory of her stepmother, Shelley Podber Paulen, who died in 2014 from multiple myeloma and pneumonia.

Jessica Paulen Goldich and husband Kyle at a recent Leukemia and Lymphoma Society event. (Special)

“I never imagined we would win nationally,” Goldich said. “I just wanted to bring attention to blood cancers, and we’ve been able to spread the word tremendously though outreach. It was wonderful to bring Shelley’s memory back to life. People really loved her.”

The society raises money to finance research and seek a cure for blood cancer patients. It hosted a 10-week competition that ended June 30 in which 900 people — 17 of them from metro Atlanta — raised more than $45 million, according to the society.

About $1.3 million was raised in Georgia, the society said in a press release. Goldich raised about a quarter of the total. Goldich won the Georgia competition and was the first Georgian to go on to win the national competition, representatives of the Atlanta chapter said.

At a ceremony in Atlantic City, N.J., Goldich recognized those who helped make her fundraising possible. “This campaign showed me how blessed I am with loving friends and family, without whose incredible support I wouldn’t be standing here today,” she said.

Goldich described Paulen as putting up a courageous and spunky fight, maintaining her sense of humor the whole time through.

The fundraising team name was called “Team Shellbell,” after Paulen’s nickname, and was comprised of 40 of Goldich’s and Paulen’s family, friends and co-workers. Originally, Goldich’s goal was $100,000, after an estimate from the leukemia society that she could pull in $75,000. But the number kept growing when four of her teammates helped raise more than $25,000 each.

“Jessica was unique in the fact that she knew she was going to be successful in the beginning, and we said that’s exactly why we want you to compete, because we think we can make an impact,” said Kayla Danley, the Atlanta area director of LLS, who helped Goldich implement her fundraising skills.

“She rallied every family, colleague at work to support her and tapped into every network that she had.”

Goldich fundraised through a variety of initiatives. She sent out personalized letters, called on everyone she knew and held a live auction with sponsors donating time in vacation homes in Mexico and North Carolina, gourmet catering, and other services.

She cited help from the dental industry and employees and patients at the New Image Dental Lab, where she is a vice president of operations, as the reason for her success. Lab employees were a major contributor, raising $75,000 toward the cause.

Goldich’s husband, Kyle, functioned as team manager. He said they were lucky to have a large group of people who cared passionately about Jessica.

He said that “through this activity, you’re forced to interact with a lot of different people, and being able to connect with those truly kind and generous people was my favorite aspect.”

Moving forward, Goldich will have a leadership role with LLS to guide others in fundraising.

“Everyone we know has been touched by cancer,” Goldich said. “The research being done is amazing. One day, I hope we will find a cure so people don’t have to tell the story we do now.”

–Jaclyn Turner