By Punch Correspondent Karen Garnick
What an inspirational night. Living in a city that has some type of fundraiser every day, I figured the Leukemia & Lymphoma Societyâ€™s Light the Night would be fun, but wouldn’t really differentiate from the others. After the kickoff event in June and months of fundraising, the DC walk was on October 13th. Many aspects were routine â€“ the DC Transit Band keeping the energy alive with great cover songs, food, LLS gear for sale, and sponsor tents. Some touches were fun and different â€“ a game area for kids with a bounce house and Dance Dance Revolution, entertainers including a man on stilts that snuck up behind and scared people (he got a good scream out of me), jugglers, and balloon animals.
However, this event had the personal touch many fundraisers lack. Participants werenâ€™t there to improve their time in a 5K race or to score a free dinner and open bar. Nearly every team had a cancer survivor or knew someone who lost their life to blood cancer. The festivities at Freedom Plaza lasted until sunset. Then, over 2,000 people walked together down Pennsylvania Avenue with the Capitolâ€™s light guiding them and their glowing balloons. The sight took my breath away â€“ red balloons for support, silver balloons for survivors, and gold balloons for remembrance â€“ all slowing moving forward and lighting up the night.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the worldâ€™s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. Many people donâ€™t realize this, but leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 20. To date, LLS has invested over $875 million in research (This year’s DC walk raised $2.2 million!) and the medical progress has been unbelievable. 40 years ago, there was a 6% survival rate in children â€“ today it is 90%!
Peter Kress, 6, of Arlington, is one of those children. He was one of the five Honored Heroes at this yearâ€™s walk. At age 5, after ignoring a nosebleed and fever, Peter went to a routine doctor visit with his brothers. After reviewing his symptoms and realizing his spleen was enlarged, Peter was rushed to Georgetown University where his parentsâ€™ worst feat was confirmed â€“ he had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). This led to a 22-day stay in the hospital, and although doing better, he is still continuing treatment. His team, Puck Leukemia, raised over $11,000 this year. Peterâ€™s dad spoke during the kick-off and thanked LLS for all they have done. Peter, adorable as can be, addressed the crowd as well, kicking off the walk with the words â€œthank you for all your hard work, and have a wonderful evening.â€
Featured Team: Pimp Joos
Danielle Joos, 27, lives here in DC and works on the hill. Early last year, she had what she believed was an allergy attack and rushed to the hospital. After hours of tests it was revealed that she didnâ€™t have allergies, but a softball sized mass in her chest, which turned out to be Large B-Cell Lymphoma. Lymphoma isnâ€™t a cancer that discriminates when it comes to age and it came as a complete shock. After 4 months and 6 rounds of chemo (which caused a complete loss of hair, but she rocked the wig with style!), her body was cancer free. â€œI have faith that (LLS is) on a mission to wipe out blood cancers permanently and will absolutely accomplish that goal so that one day no one ever has to go through what I went through.â€ Danielleâ€™s friends and family were imperative during this time. However, the support didnâ€™t stop after she became healthy. This year, she raised an unbelievable $13,505 and over 20 of her friends and family members marched alongside Danielle, red balloons in hand. Just because the walk is over doesnâ€™t mean the fundraising should endâ€¦.click here to donate to team Pimp Joos!
This event could not have happened without the help of sponsors. This yearâ€™s main corporate sponsor was TD Bank, and their Regional President, Brian Monday, was this yearâ€™s Walk Chair. Like so many other people, Brian had a story to tell. Years back, his good friend went through a complete bone marrow transplant, which took an exhausting 3 months. He survived, and he was lucky â€“ only a few years prior this treatment was unavailable. Brian said when that happens to someone you care about, â€œyou canâ€™t help but not reach out.â€ TD Bank generally likes to contribute and give back to the community; as Brian said, itâ€™s â€œpart of who we are, part of our DNA.â€ The bank also has an employee who is a leukemia survivor and has walked in the past. So when Brian and the TD Bank team were approached to be corporate sponsors, the response was â€œabsolutely!â€ Over 30 employees from TD walked this year.
If you feel like you missed out, donâ€™t worry, the Northern Virginia Walk is next Saturday, October 20th, at Reston Town Center! Festivities begin at 5pm and the 2 mile walk begins around 7pm (sundown). If you canâ€™t make the walk but feel inspired to donate, you can do so on the website.
Correspondent Karen Garnick is a California native trying to get accustomed to the East Coast lifestyle (and weather!). By day, she works as an event planner for a think tank, and by night you can find her out on the town. She is a world traveler, loves baby animals, and enjoys curling up to a good book and glass of wine. Contact her at email@example.com.