Leaño leads Smash Cancer into 4th year


Maleigh Crespo

Junior biology major Isabella “Isa” Leaño (center, smiling) sits at a table in the Danna Center to promote the Smash Cancer Tennis-athon on March 13, 2023

Alana Thompson, Assistant Sports Editor

After junior tennis player Isabella “Isa” Leaño’s paternal grandfather died due to acute myeloid leukemia, it motivated her to found an event for cancer while playing a game she loves.

Leaño, a biology major from Miami, established a twelve hour tennis-a-thon called Smash Cancer in her home state of Florida in 2019.

On Sunday, March 26, Smash Cancer will be held at City Park Tennis Center.

“I began Smash Cancer with my high school doubles partner,” Leaño said. “I had the idea, and she had the connections, or liaison rather, to Stand Up to Cancer, which is our benefactor … that’s where all our funds go toward.”

In the four years since its inception, the location and atmosphere of Smash Cancer has changed which, in turn, has helped the event “blossom,” according to Leaño.

“I actually transferred to Loyola in my sophomore year,” Leaño said. “I was in Philadelphia in my freshman year at La Salle University, and I found out that they had cut my program [because I played tennis there] and defunded it due to Covid. So, I decided to transfer.”

Deciding to establish her roots at Loyola, she held her first Smash Cancer event in New Orleans, and with the help from her teammates and head coach Matthew Llewellyn, the Florida-native gained connections in the Crescent City.

“Not that I had low expectations, but I wasn’t expecting what I had gotten in Miami because I didn’t have any connections in New Orleans,” Leaño said. “I had like 150 people from the athletic department show up and 200 people, caterers and all, in total for the event. It was a really good turn out. Much better than I expected.”

From the connections that Leaño cultivated, she realized that she needed to dedicate more time and networking to the event. As a result of her hard work and determination, there were more people in attendance last year, according to Leaño.

“It has been my vision throughout the whole thing, but my coach has always been there to help me out,” Leaño said. “Even if my coach isn’t there, my teammates are very supportive throughout the whole time. ”

Due to her work with Smash Cancer, she was nominated for the LeRoy Walker Champions of Character Award last year. This recognition led her to be appointed to the Association of Student Athletes which made her feel “really nice,” Leaño said.

“It felt good obviously to have somebody to commend me for what I’ve been doing,” Leaño said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get it, but the whole process was very empowering.”
More information about the event and GoFundMe campaign can be found on its Instagram @smashcancer_loyno.