Archive for Friday, September 26, 2008

Light the Night readies to float cancer awareness downtown

KU graduate student Brandon Gwilliam holds his daughter McKensie at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, shortly after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

KU graduate student Brandon Gwilliam holds his daughter McKensie at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, shortly after she was diagnosed with leukemia.

September 26, 2008

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The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is hoping for a bright evening Saturday in downtown Lawrence.

Its fifth annual Light the Night fundraiser begins at 6 p.m. in South Park with a carnival-like atmosphere. There will be children's games, food and entertainment.

At 7:45 p.m., participants will walk up Massachusetts and down New Hampshire streets carrying illuminated balloons in three colors - white for survivors, red for supporters and gold for those who lost their battle to the diseases.

"It's at dusk and at night, so it's really kind of a neat picture to see all of the lighted balloons walking up the street," said Lynn Looloian, campaign assistant for Lawrence's event.

Organizers expect 700 participants and hope to raise more than $50,000 for blood cancer research. The society's mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma.

"In the past 40 years, we have gone from a 40 percent chance of survival once a young person gets diagnosed with leukemia to like an 85 percent chance of survival, so it obviously has been paying off. But then again, there's still too many that are getting the disease and not making it, so that's why we are trying to raise funds," Looloian said.

Wendy Berg, of Baldwin City, formed a team after learning the society represented all blood cancers, including myeloma, which has been diagnosed in her husband's parents. Both are undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

"I am watching my in-laws fight this cancer, and I feel helpless because they are struggling and going through all these treatments, and I feel like I am doing nothing," she said. "So, when I saw that they have this walk, I felt that this is my way of helping."

So far, her team of five, called the Berg Believers, has raised about $2,300, and she hopes to raise even more. Contributions can be made to her or the society at the Web site lightthenight.org.

Area residents can still participate by registering at the event. There is no fee to walk, but a balloon costs $25.

"We encourage everyone to come out and join us," Looloian said. "It's a great cause."

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