Over 5,000 Philadelphia residents gathered at the Art Museum on Saturday, Oct. 23 for the 11th annual “Light The Night” walk hosted by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Eastern Pennsylvania. The LLS is a worldwide nonprofit agency dedicated to raising funds to find a cure for blood cancers and offers support services for patients and their families. This year Philadelphians alone raised over $576,000 by participating in the “Light The Night” walk.
“The ‘Light The Night’ walk gives hope to patients and their families and lets them know they are not alone in their battle against cancer. The money raised supports critical research and patient education and services,” Maida Milone, executive director of the LLS’s Eastern Pennsylvania chapter, said.
Before the walk officially began family, friends and coworkers joined together at Eakins Oval to enjoy refreshments and listen to the music of The Berrys.
“After all of the planning it was really rewarding to watch everyone come together and enjoy themselves for such a great cause,” Sarah Bongiovanni, volunteer coordinator for the LLS, said.
The emcee for the evening was Aditi Roy from NBC. As Roy announced the commencement of the remembrance, ceremony walkers lit candles in memory of those who have lost their battle to blood cancers.
“The past five years I have attended the ‘Light The Night’ walk. The remembrance ceremony is a way for me to honor my granddaughter. Her optimism and strength throughout her battle with Leukemia is an inspiration to me,” Carol Scarren said.
For the third year Philadelphia’s “Light The Night” walk featured a head shaving ceremony. Eleven brave individuals, including two women, had their heads shaved as a tribute to their loved ones who are living with blood cancers.
The opening ceremony included a speech from Joseph and Mary Muzikar, who lost their daughter Maureen Muzikar to Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. While battling the disease she
worked to raise over $50,000 through the “Light The Night” walk and earned her Masters in Education from Cabrini College.
Maureen lost her life to cancer at 28 years old.
Her passion to find a cure lives on through her family and friends who have gone on to raise $120,000.
Peter Reid gave an inspirational speech about his recovery from AML.
He discussed how he endured eight months of failed chemotherapy treatments, radiation and postponed bone-marrow-transplants. Reid was given two options; hospice-care or to proceed with a bone-marrow-transplant, which had a twenty percent success rate due to the aggressive nature of the cancer.
“I only saw one option. I was 30 years old. If the transplant was my only chance of survival then that’s a chance I would take. On June 26th I left the hospital with my wife, much to the amazement of the medical staff,” Peter Reid said.
At dusk, the “Light The Night” walk lasted two miles.
Thousands of walkers carried lit balloons that illuminated West River Drive. Blood cancer survivors carried white balloons, supporters of individuals currently battling blood cancers carried red balloons and gold balloons were carried in memory of those whose lives have been lost to a blood cancer.
The next local “Light The Night” walk will take place at Bucks County Community College on Saturday, Nov. 6.
To sign-up for a walk or to learn more about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society visit http://www.lls.org.