Area residents will literally be taking steps toward a cure of blood diseases as they muster a small army to participate in the 14th annual Light the Night Walk.
The event will be held Saturday at the Pitt-Johnstown campus in Richland Township.
As many as 800 people, many of whom have formed teams of family, friends or co-workers, are expected to lace up their shoes to raise money to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The two-mile parade of flickering red and white lanterns will help support the mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma while improving quality of life for patients and their families.
Angelina Shilcosky of Sidman, a blood cancer survivor and campaign coordinator, knows the importance of fundraising.
“Before 2000, the life expectancy of people with my type of leukemia was seven years,” she said. “With the development of a chemotherapy pill called Gleevec through funding from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the survival rate rose to 95 percent.”
Shilcosky has been cancer-free since early 2007 and has been giving back by coordinating the walk to support the nonprofit organization that gave her strength and hope.
Registration and a pre-walk celebration will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. behind Blackington Hall.
The event includes refreshment, raffles and live music from PT Cruiser.
Greater Allegheny’s Light the Night Walk is sponsored by the Johnstown Tomahawks.
Richard Bouchard, president of the Tomahawks, and Rick Boyd, general manager, are serving as the walk’s co-chairmen.
Last year, 87 teams contributed a record-breaking $109,000 toward LLS’ mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.
The goal for this year is $110,000. Whatever is raised, it stays in the area.
“Some of the proceeds also go to families who need financial aid, co-pay assistance and underwrite patient service such as support groups and free literature,” Shilcosky said. “Seventy-five percent of the money raised comes from teams.”
Supporters work for months prior to the event to obtain money through events such as remission parties and sales of garden flags and candy bars.
For the first time, blood cancer patients and survivors will carry white illuminated lanterns in the walk, while other participants who raise $25 or more carry red. Those who raise $100 or more receive an illuminated lantern and a long-sleeved walk shirt. Each team walking in memory of a loved one also carries a gold lantern.
“Events such as this are vital because each participant and donation puts us one step closer to ending blood cancer in our lifetime,” Shilcosky said.
Light the Night offers plenty to entertain and engage all ages: Free food, free music, the Classic Clowns club and activities from The Learning Lamp.
The Light the Night Walk is a nationwide evening event to celebrate and commemorate lives impacted by cancer.
Every four minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer. Approximately every 10 minutes, someone dies.
An estimated 1 million people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from a form of blood cancer.
The Light the Night Walk offers an environment for everyone impacted by the disease to interact and offer support to each other.
To register, go to www.lightthenight.org or call 412-697-2852.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.
What: 14th annual Light the Night Walk.
Where: Pitt-Johnstown campus in Richland Township.
412-697-2852 or visit www.lightthenight.org