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Cancer research supporters 'Light the Night'

Fourth annual walk raises more than $31,000 for blood cancer cures

Posted: October 18, 2009 10:38 p.m.
Updated: October 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Four-year-old Evan Gabor, led by dad Bobby Gabor, smiles while 100 people participate in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light The Night Walk on Saturday. The walk raised money to help research blood cancers.

 

Twinkling red glows speckled the night sky around Bridgeport Park as thousands of people walked with illuminated balloons in hand to support blood cancer research.

More than 1,750 people participated in the fourth annual Light The Night Walk on Saturday night to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and to commemorate or celebrate lives touched by cancer.

Walkers made the two and a quarter mile stroll with energy and hope, many singing songs and some holding their cancer-stricken loved ones at the front of their groups.

"I think we can get rid of blood cancer," said Monica Hurney, of Northridge. "Every little bit helps. I saw my son go through it so I know surviving is possible and a cure is around the corner."

Hurney and 130 family members and friends walked for 5-year-old Noah Hurney, Monica's son who was diagnosed in October 2006.

February will conclude Noah's last month of treatment and his family celebrated as they chanted, "Noah, Noah" while embarking on their walk.

Participants raised more than $31,000 on the walk alone, said Kathryn Scott, campaign director for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The number will rise as other contributions are added in, she said.

Participants asked family members and friends to sponsor their walk by making contributions to the society.

Seventy-five cents of each dollar supports the society's mission to "cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and improve the quality of life of patients and their families."

Funds raised provide blood cancer research, financial assistance to cover patient expenses, educational materials for patients and families and more, according to the Light The Night Web site.

"It's just a celebration over how working together we can make a difference and hopefully find a cure for blood cancers," Scott said.

The society works with five major cancer organizations in Los Angeles in finding cures and conducting research, Scott said.

Light The Night volunteers handed out three different colored balloons - red, white and gold.

The majority of balloons were red, which represented supporters.

White balloons represented survivors and a few gold balloons were carried in memory of loved ones who lost their battle to cancer.

"We'd eventually like to see no gold balloons," Scott said. "We'd like to put ourselves out of business."

Light The Night walks are held throughout the United States and Canada. In Santa Clarita, awareness is growing as evidenced by the 450-plus extra bodies that turned out this year compared to last, Scott said.

From the crowds of bobbing red balloons, an illuminated white balloon would occasionally emerge carried by a cancer survivor.

One such balloon belonged to 3-year-old Evan Gabor.

Evan's father pulled his wide-eyed son in a wagon as more than 100 family members and friends surrounded them on the walk.

"Evan has touched so many lives," said Marina Contreras, of Valencia, captain of Team Evan and the boy's great aunt.

The team raised more than $17,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society this year, bringing their total to over $50,000 raised in the last three years, Contreras said.

"When he was diagnosed (with leukemia), he was only 23 months-(old)," said Evan's mother, Jennifer Gabor, of the San Fernando Valley. "When people see what he's been through, that he celebrated his second birthday in the hospital and his fighting spirit, I think that's what motivates people to come."

Evan was not the only young cancer battler to take the walk.

Leukemia affects and causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and those under the age of 20, Scott said.

But Evan is a fighter, Jennifer Gabor said. Evan is in the "maintenance phase" of his treatment and his next major phase is eight days of radiation next year, she said.

"He's lost his hair twice, he's faced these awful drugs and at the end of the day, when he says ‘Mommy, I love you,' it's just sweet," Gabor said.

Gabor said she was "overwhelmed" to see the clusters of red balloons surrounding Evan.

Evan, who has been in remission for two years, was just happy to be with his friends, Gabor said. "He's just excited to be here with kids and be a kid," she said. "No hospital, doctors or needles."

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