Though various national cancer organizations provide assistance to patients and aid for research on a national level, local chapters also do what they can to make a specific impact in our area.
The scope of community members
affected by blood cancers will be visible on Oct. 6, when the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Western PA?and West Virginia chapter hosts its annual Greater Alleghenies Light the Night Walk at 5 p.m. at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.
Participants walk in the 2011 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on the Penn State Altoona campus.
The walk is characterized by the nearly 1,000 people who carry lighted balloons on the non-competitive walk. Patients and survivors carry white balloons, supporters carry red balloons and walkers commemorating the life of a loved one carry gold balloons.
"There are a lot more red balloons than white balloons, which is a good thing," said Angelina Shilcosky, the campaign coordinator and a team captain for the walk. "It's really cool to see those lighted balloons going through the campus of Pitt-Johnstown."
The money raised by the Light the Night Walk benefits blood cancer patients in Blair, Cambria, Indiana, Somerset and Bedford counties, Shilcosky said. It goes toward financial assitance for medicine and co-pays, as well as toward research. Shilcosky is a leukemia survivor who has to take a chemotherapy pill daily. She said it would cost her $5,300 a month without assistance from insurance and the society.
If you go
What: The Annual Light the Night Walk benefitting the Western PA?and West Virginia chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
When: 5 p.m. Oct. 6, walk begins at 7 p.m.
Where: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Johnstown
Details: To register for the walk, contact Angelina Shilcosky at 418-1018 or angelina.
email@example.com. Or visit www.lightthenight.org/
What: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Blair County
When: 9 a.m. Oct. 13
Where: Peoples Natural Gas Field, 1000 Park Avenue, Altoona
Details: To register, visit www.makingstrideswalk. org/blaircounty. You may also register the day of the event.
"If I didn't have that help, that's over $60,000 a year," she said. "And I'm on it the rest of my life."
Shilcosky said the society's patient need has gone up 30 percent in the past two years. One local benefactor of their assistance is Sue Dodson of Altoona, who was diagnosed last year with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She said knew she wanted to get more involved with the Light the Night Walk after attending the event last year soon after she received her diagnosis.
"You don't realize how many people have blood cancers," Dodson said, adding that there was even a 2-year-old girl there whose parents spoke about their daughter's fight with cancer. "There wasn't a dry eye around after they told her story."
This year, Dodson is hoping to raise a total of $1,000, and has done various fundraisers at Penn State Altoona where she is employed as an administrative assistant.
"I like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because the money raised stays within [surrounding] counties," Dodson said. "Whatever is raised stays local."
Benefitting the local community is also a characteristic of The American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The 13th annual noncompetitive walk will take place at 9 a.m. Oct. 13 and for the first time will be held at Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona.
Lisa Koncz, an income development representative for the American Cancer Society, said the goal for this year is to attract 1,000 walkers from the community and raise a total of $138,500.
"A lot of folks have been touched by breast cancer, as well as their families," Koncz said. "This is a great way to support them and the community at large that is in need of our services."
Unfortunately, cancer and illness were a family affair for Terri Robbins of Hollidaysburg, who will be the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2012 honorary survivor.
Just a few months after her daughter, Sarah, was treated for a rare mass found on her cervix, Robbins was diagnosed with breast cancer. But fundraising for the walk really helped the mother-daughter team through a tough time.
"As soon as I started to focus on how to raise money and help other people, I got better myself," Robbins said.
Robbins' teams have raised more than $5,000 the past two years. She said that fundraising has become like a business, as she and her teammates have been selling bracelets and lanyards, making scarves and donating sponsored baskets filled with items for patients going through chemotherapy to Altoona Hospital.
To Robbins, whose daughter has a clean bill of health - she herself is in her third year of remission - it is worth the effort.
"They need all the support they can get," she said of patients and the society.
Koncz agreed that the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk can become a very positive response to an incredibly frightening diagnosis.
"That's the great thing about this walk," she said. "All of these women can come together to share their stories, share their heartaches and share their triumphs."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.