Skip to main content

Sugar House Journal

Light the Night fundraiser unites entire state to kick blood cancer

Oct 11, 2019 08h35 ● By Jennifer J Johnson

Multicolored paper lanterns carried by cancer survivors, caregivers, friends, family and supporters exemplify the Oct. 12 Light the Night fundraising walk to be held at downtown’s Library Square. (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected] 

Multicolored paper lanterns proclaim the name of the charity and its pledge. Clusters of people—some old, some young, all passionate—gather, holding signs identifying their fundraising group or cause.

They gather to take a step, take another step, then many steps—and light the night to help end cancer.

Such is the premise of the annual Light the Night Walk. The Utah chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) is hosting its annual Light the Night Walk Saturday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at Library Square downtown.

Bringing light to the darkness that is cancer

“When you or someone you love hears the words ‘you have cancer’... It's one of the darkest moments in your life,” LLS advises.

“At Light the Night, it is our aim to bring light to the darkness of cancer through research and cures…We bring hope instead of despair by working to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients. We bring communities together to celebrate those who are fighting the disease and to honor those we have lost.”

Light the Night Walk is The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's walk to build awareness of blood cancers as well as raise money for research and support of patients and their families. It is held in over 200 communities in North America each fall as well as in Australia.

Understanding cancers—blood cancers and solid cancers

Most cancers are solid—unchecked, mutated cells that form a tumor. The six most common cancers—breast, lung, prostate, colorectal, melanoma and bladder—are solid cancers that account for almost 1 million new cases a year.

Blood cancers affect the production and function of blood cells. Most of these cancers are where blood is produced—in bone marrow. Abnormal blood cells, or cancerous cells, prevent blood from performing some of its core functions, leaving blood-cancer patients with compromised immune systems and susceptibility to serious bleeding.

More than 170,000 people contract blood cancers annually.

Utah lights the night from Library Square

With a goal of raising nearly $600,000, the upcoming Light the Night event is rallying supporters throughout the state.

A “leader board” of sorts, posts real time fundraising efforts by friends and family and corporate teams alike.

Participants from groups like the University of Utah and local channel ABC 4 are joined by Ogden’s “Walking Warriors” and Carbon and Emery County Light the Night fundraisers.

The Salt Lake City event truly unifies the whole state in the effort to kick blood cancers.

“It’s our way of rallying the community to remember loved ones,” said LLS Executive Director Stacie Kulp.

Remembering and supporting a loved one is what drew Kulp herself to the organization.

She and her husband participated in a marathon fundraiser and she then began working with the organization. “Now I have many dear friends—volunteers—who are survivors,” she said. “It reminds me why I do what I do.”

A day in the life of the Utah LLS

Kulp said the daily job of her and her colleagues is to help cure blood cancers and improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers.

The Utah LLS provides no-cost patient services, including serving as the largest nonprofit to provide education on blood cancers.

The organization further provides financial assistance, such as copayments and even travel expenses for remote patients and caregivers.

Emotional support is a constant element of the support provided. “We help connect patients and caregivers and survivors,” Kulp said, outlining the triangular support system.

The power of surviving cancer is profound. In June, Larry Wilkinson, a leukemia survivor from West Valley City, journeyed more than 1,400 miles to join more than 100 five-year cancer survivors in Chicago for a Celebrate Life event hosted by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

The little charity that could—and does

When many of us think about a charity organization that fights cancer, the American Cancer Society springs to mind.

On the paid-cancer-treatment front, many people are familiar with the local, world-class Huntsman Cancer Center and even the one Wilkinson opted for, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

LLS is almost a downplayed organization.

Kulp said LLS “puts so much money toward our mission that we don’t have marketing dollars.”

Blood-related diseases are the No. 1 disease-diagnosis for children under the age of 18.

These used to be the No. 1 cause of death for youth, “the killer of young people,” but, Kulp said, that has changed, in great part due to better treatment for the diseases being made available through LLS-funded research.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Utah has the lowest cancer death-rate nationwide.

While that data is not broken down in terms of deaths related to solid versus blood cancers, Utah’s low statistic is incredibly rewarding news to the Utah LLS and its executive director.

“For the first time ever, we are funding prevention,” Kulp said, joyous. “[It is] an exciting time in the world of blood-cancer research.”

At press time, the Utah Chapter of the LLS posted donations reaching one-third of this year’s goals. Parties interested in supporting an existing team or forming their own team can contact the Utah Chapter.