The Remembrance Ceremony for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's event, Light the Night Walk, begins with gathering the loved ones of those with family and friends that have suffered from blood cancer to write down special messages. Thousands of participants release sets of balloons with these notes to the loved ones lost. The messages float into the night sky, and at that moment it feels like everyone is connected in their strife. Kim Zincone of the Hospice of Virginia described these actions to me, and although I have never personally been connected to someone with this disease, I couldn't help but feel empathetic while looking at the glowing firefly buttons they had ordered. At the Richmond Light the Night Walk, these custom made buttons will be given out to walkers as a gift from Hospice of Virginia. And the pin backs cleverly glow in the dark, creating another way to light up the night's trail.
What is the Light the Night Walk?
Organized by Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), it's a charity walk that includes events for kids, food trucks, live music, and other community building activities. After the Remembrance Ceremony, members of the community walk a 1.5 mile journey around the designated park, university, stadium, or even farmers market at dusk with glowing lanterns and buttons to illuminate the night.
Why was it founded?
The de Villiers family founded the Leukemia Society in 1949 after the death of their son. The family was frustrated with the lack of services and treatments available. The Robert Rosseler de Villiers foundation was created and named after their son, in the hopes of improving education and fundraising for leukemia and to support family members who have lost loved ones to the blood cancer.
"The mission of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and to improve the quality of life for our patients and their families." - LLS
How can this walk make a difference?
In over two hundred communities across North America each year, Light the Night Walks rally family, friends, coworkers, and advocates to walk in honor of those they have lost to the disease. On average, each walker raises $250 that go to help find treatments to save lives, help provide patient support, treatment research, and spread awareness about leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood diseases. The money raised also helps give financial assistance to help cover patient expenses and keep funding for support groups like the Patti Robinson Kauffman First Connection and Family Support Groups.
As I mentioned, each participant at the Richmond Light the Night Walk is given a three inch round glow in the dark button featuring a trail of fireflies. The insects were chosen to be featured on the button not only for their natural radiance, but Alane Miles of the Hospice of Virginia comments that these glowing creatures were used to symbolize a fragile and "short-lived" beauty.
"This walk is an opportunity to light up the night as fireflies of hope, of memory, and as witness to all who live or have lived with blood cancers. We honor those who have died from these cancers by lighting up the night as they lit up our lives."
How can you help Light the Night Walk?
I wanted to find out more about how to participate in a night's walk and discovered that you could join an existing team, walk as an individual, or make your own team from friends or with your colleagues from work. You simply register your group on the Light the Night Walk website to begin fundraising for the event.
In addition to the glow in the dark buttons handed out, there are also benefits for those who raise a certain amount for the night. For every walker that is able to raise $100, will receive A Light the Night Walk t-shirt, wristband for complimentary foods and refreshments, as well as a glowing lantern for the night. Each lantern's color is correlated with your relation to the disease; a white lantern symbolizing that you're a survivor, a red lantern to show you are a supporter, and gold to represent that you have experienced loss from the disease. For those participants that are able to raise $1,000 or more join the Bright Lights Club with recognition to the generousness donation and special gifts to show appreciation for their support.
Find a Walk Near You and Get Started!
Now is the time for me to rally my team members and start brainstorming how you can raise funds for the Light the Night Walk nearest you. Be inspired by what the Hospice of Virginia did, and order custom buttons for your team to wear at the event, or you could give away personalized pins to donors that help you meet your goal or simply hand out the buttons to spread awareness. By spreading the word of the LLS through buttons, even if you're unable to participate in the walk you can also donate along with millions of Americans at LLS's designated retail locations, online, or through mail.