Anton Harju
Created 16.01.2023 at 08:40
Updated 16.01.2023 at 09:09
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Teenagers might not fully grasp what it means when a loved one gets a cancer diagnosis. Anton Harju’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer for women in Finland, and about 5000 are diagnosed with it each year. On the positive side, cancer treatment is highly advanced in Finland. Harju’s mother is one of the many to recover.

”It wasn’t until I got older that I fully understood what we were dealing with. Many members of my extended family have been diagnosed with cancer, and not all of them have pulled through. One of my relatives is currently in hospice care. All this has led to the fact that I wanted to arrange an event to support cancer patients and those close to them,” says Harju.

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”It wasn’t until I got older that I fully understood what we were dealing with. Many members of my extended family have been diagnosed with cancer, and not all of them have pulled through. One of my relatives is currently in hospice care. All this has led to the fact that I wanted to arrange an event to support cancer patients and those close to them,” says Harju.

Parru HT, the ice hockey team of LUT and the LAB University of Applied Sciences, arranged the charity game Parru fights cancer on October 19, 2022. Donations and sales returns on breast cancer ribbons and embroidered patches amounted to roughly 3000 euros. The proceeds went to the Cancer Society of Saimaa, which will use the full amount to support cancer patients and their loved ones and promote rehabilitation and cancer prevention, awareness and counselling.

One in every three Finns will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.

”I asked the Finnish Ice Hockey Association if games at this level had ever attracted such a crowd – the head count at the Lappeenranta hockey rink was 1302. The association couldn’t recall a similar example,” Harju says.

Next, Parru will put together a fundraiser for student mental health.

“The more we raise awareness, the more we get donors. That’s why the marketing of charity events and spreading information is so important.”

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Parru Fights Cancer

Never home empty-handed from a sponsor meeting

Harju is enrolled in the Master’s Programme in International Business and Entrepreneurship  (MIBE) at LUT Business School, and in five years, he has learned a thing or two about marketing. Parru fights cancer was mainly marketed by posting advertisement videos on Instagram and Facebook, but also ticket sales on campus turned out to be lucrative.

Harju is used to arranging events and seeking sponsors not only as the captain of Parru HT but as a project coordinator of Enklaavi, LUT’s business student organisation. Harju says he has raised a total of 25 000 euros for his hockey team and 15 000 euros for Enklaavi.

”I’ve never left a sponsor meeting without bringing in a donation.”

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Enklaavi students walking, Academic Adventure event 2022
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”At Parru, I’ve taken care of all phone calls and emails to secure new sponsors and partners. Except for a few older ones, I’ve landed all of our team’s sponsorship deals.”

Harju says that they often put together a team of volunteers to organize events. For example, a total of 15 people were involved in arranging the Parru fights cancer charity game. On the morning of this interview, Harju woke up at 5:15 because his team had been hired to carry out an inventory at the local hypermarket Prisma. Everyone donated their day’s wages to the hockey team.

At Enklaavi, Harju collaborates closely with the organization’s board and a committee to which he can delegate duties.

Enklaavi arranges roughly 11 events a year. The student festival Marathon Monday attracted a crowd of 2300.

In addition to his responsibilities in the student organization, Harju has hockey practice several times a week, is writing his master’s thesis, works for the software company Visma, and spends time with his Helsinki-based girlfriend. His schedule tends to be packed. Harju says he’s “the worst at using a calendar” but makes it through his hectic days by writing checklists. He lists what he needs to get done in a day or a week and crosses items out one by one.

”My life is controlled chaos. I guess it’s because I put my heart and soul into what I’m doing. Luckily, I have a good support network and close ties with my family – my parents and my older sisters. It gives me confidence to know that I can try different things and they’re always there to catch me if I fall.”

”The best thing about LUT is the people”

Sometimes the fact that hockey practice starts regularly at a given time helps with studies. This was the case for a friend of Harju’s, who specifically thanked Parru and his teammates in his graduation speech.

“My friend was going through a rough patch and was on the verge of dropping out. Playing in Parru helped him turn things around and graduate on time,” Harju explains

Playing ice hockey has also been a lifeline for Harju. Going to the ice rink is a good distraction every time.

”You always know there’s a team full of friends waiting for you at the rink.

The best thing about LUT is the people. It’s easy to get along with everyone because there are so many awesome people on campus.”

Harju has seen Parru HT grow considerably. At one point, as few as seven players attended hockey practice, but these days 25 to 35 guys, as Harju calls his teammates, hit the ice each time.

”We’ve already started grooming my successor. So far, everyone’s gotten time on ice, but if the team keeps growing, the next captain may need to make tough choices.”

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Persistency and manners

Once Harju finishes his master’s degree in business, he plans to keep looking for a job in the event industry or sports. Harju has noticed that applying for jobs is hard work in itself. Even though he’s prepared applications with the help of a career coach from The Finnish Business School Graduates, it’s difficult to land job interviews with employers.

Nevertheless, Harju is persistent and is not giving up.

”Persistency has come in handy when I’ve reached out to sponsors. I’ve placed countless calls and sent an incredible number of emails to secure meetings and to open negotiations. Despite what many may think, Parru has no permanent sponsors.”

Harju believes his background in team sports has helped him network at the university and with sponsors. In addition to hockey, Harju has played soccer, floorball, tennis, padel and badminton.

”I’ve got the gift of gab; I guess it was passed down by my parents,” he laughs.

”My mom always stops to chat with the sales people at the mall. Dad is a businessman, and I’ve heard how he talks to his clients. In addition, good manners are something I’ve learned from my sisters. They’ve taught me how to treat women.”

How’s that, then?

”When I was little, I met some of the boys my sisters went out with. I used to tell them that they should be affectionate and bring flowers. Those are words I’ve tried to live by to this day. The guys I met, however, did not. They’re no longer in the picture.”

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