Light the night

by Amanda di Gregorio

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada Fundraiser

Since its first Light the Night event, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) has been corralling funds and grassroots support with growing rates each year. Participation rates have risen from an initial 150 supporters to 6,000 participants, and over one million dollars has been raised annually for the last two years.

The Montreal walk-a-thon event, also taking place in over 200 communities across North America, will be held on Saturday October 13 at Parc Jean Drapeau. “Every year we get better, and this is an annual event. So on a deeper level, it becomes a commemoration ritual for our community in many ways,” says LLSC president Alicia Talarico. “I think the really important thing that we strive for is creating a space for all sorts of different people connected to this issue to find inspiration and healing.” 

The LLSC’s mission is to find cures for blood cancers such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease and lymphoma, while educating about the conditions and enhancing the quality of life of those suffering from the diseases as well as those who care for them. This year, as in the past, groups of volunteers who have raised funds will join together for a 5-kilometre walk around the park’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at sunset. “You get to see the same families year after year, either coming together in celebration of a loved one who has survived their battle with blood cancer or to collectively remember and honour those they’ve lost to the disease,” Talarico explains.

Coloured lanters held by participants illuminate the evening walk: current patients and survivors carry white lanterns, supporters and community members hold red lanterns while gold lanterns are held high in memory of lives lost to blood cancers. “In a visual way, these lights communicate your reasons for coming out and showing support,” points out Catalina Jimenez, LLSC outreach consultant. “Even if it’s your first time, you can connect with the people around you and understand their reasons for joining in and pledging their support for the cause.” 

Throughout her many years with the LLSC, Jimenez says she is “beyond inspired by the leadership seen every year in the Italian community.” John Brandone, co-president of the LLSC’s volunteer leadership committee for the past four years alongside John Marcovecchio, has been a volunteer for 14 years now. His daughter Alyssa was diagnosed with AML leukemia as a child, with slim odds of defeating the disease. But thanks to treatments and support, she beat her cancer within six months. Brandone and his family heard about the event a year later, when the walk-a-thon was in its second year. They’ve been participating ever since. “There’s a special place for the Italian community in my heart,” says Brandone, “All the friends, all the family, they always seem to come together to try and help however they can. I can attest to how many of the same faces come back year after year to be a part of this incredible event.”

His daughter Alyssa now works at the LLSC and has found meaning in educating people about the disease and organizing the event that introduced her family to a larger community of resources, support, families and survivors. “We’ve established relationships and real bonds over the course of 13 years,” Brandone explains. “Together we are helping so many others. In a way, something so tragic in my family’s life turned out to be such a source of light for us in the end.”

To learn more about this year’s Light the Night walk or to get involved, go to www.lightthenight.ca or call 514 875-1000, extension 1015