Friday, October 17, 2008

Light the Night

My dear friend June out in Kansas is my guest writer today. She participated in a very special event last month. I am grateful to her for honoring my sister who died in April.

Light the Night sounds like the subject line of an undesirable email, but it isn’t. Light the Night is a national fund-raising event for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In its ninth year, the evening walk event raises money for patient care and research for all blood cancers. Participants raise funds and carry lighted balloons through a 2 or 3 mile walk – red for supporters, white for survivors, and gold for memories of those lost.

I remember first hearing about the walks last fall and decided to do the walk in 08. How could this worthy cause have escaped me all those years before? I’m sure it had news coverage. The answer -it wasn’t personal. That changed two years ago when I lost a dear friend, Pat, to complications of treatment for leukemia.

So, when I heard about the walk this year I signed up, struggled with a fund raising letter and tried to brace myself for an emotional walk. And then I learned my long-time friend, Debbie, had lost her much loved sister, Deanah, also to leukemia. I remember Deanah as a sweet, shy young girl.

The walk here in Kansas City was scheduled to be held on 9/12, but it was not to be. Tornado warnings cancelled the walks that night. Two weeks later on 9/27 my husband and I drove to nearby Lawrence, KS (home of the KU Jayhawks!) to join their walk. I took pictures of Pat and Deanah and a red rose for each of them to leave in the memory garden.

Streets of this small college town were blocked off and we boldly walked the downtown area carrying our lighted balloons. It was a small walk by some standards, only about 700 walkers. There were walkers of all ages, though most were much younger than I. Well, it is a college town after all! People who were on the sidewalks stopped whatever they were doing to watch us march by. Kent and I were toward the front of the walk. I turned around to see what bystanders must be looking at. It was awe inspiring to see all those lighted balloons.

I think I was expecting something different than what I found at the walk. I was expecting an air of grief and sadness, but what I found was hope and inspiration. Hope that a cure will be found soon and the inspiration to continue to be involved in the walks until there is a cure. With that in mind, next year I will be doing two things. First I’ll be putting together a team of walkers here in Kansas City to walk in Pat’s memory. And second, if I’m able I’m going to be flying to Philadelphia to walk Light the Night with my friend Debbie in memory of her sister Deanah.

I know we’ve all hit hard times with the economy the way it is, but I want to challenge everyone to save your pennies to make donations to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society next fall. See you then.

Love to you.

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