This Saturday evening, the pathways around Eau Claire Market will be illuminated with lanterns. Far from being merely decorative, the lanterns will be carried by blood cancer survivors and their supporters in the annual Light the Night Walk, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada’s annual fundraiser for blood cancers. According to Melanie Seneviratne, fund development manager, the mission of the LLSC is “to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, as well as to improve the quality of life for patients in their families.” With over 138,000 people living with blood cancer or in remission within Canada alone, the need for education and support is crucial, with fundraising events such as Light the Night Walk helping thousands of Canadians per year.
The evening, itself, will be filled with events and entertainment, while bringing attention to the main reason for the event, blood cancer awareness. It begins with a parade of three different coloured lanterns at dusk, each signifying a different aspect of the event. “There are red lanterns for supporters, white for patients and survivors, and gold in memory of lost ones,” says Seneviratne. “We start at Eau Claire and it’s about 5k, give or take, we do a short route for people like kids and those with limited mobility.”
Seneviratne also sees the event as an important community builder, stating that, in the past year or so that she has been involved with the LLCS she has really seen how much it brings people together in solidarity and to support the cause. She also is quite proud that it is such an inclusive event that anyone with any level of mobility can participate in. “This is very family focused – it’s kid friendly, it’s pet friendly, we have wheelchairs if people need them, so we are trying to make it an experience and a walk.”
With the event growing yearly, Seneviratne is expecting between 2,000 – 2,500 people in attendance.
This year boasts some great sponsors that will help make the Light the Night Walk an experience to remember, with free dinner going to everyone who is registered, as well as vendors such as David’s Tea and McCafe supplying refreshments to the walkers, and new sponsors Pet Planet handing out gifts for the four-legged walkers.
Participants can also expect entertainment during the presentations and along the route. Seneviratne explains, “We have entertainment on stage … highland dancers, Bollywood Dancers, and we (also) have musicians that we’re putting along the route – one of them being a survivor, which is great.” Music will also be provided by local band Almost Famous.
And of course the lantern ceremony is the key event. “We have a couple of people to represent all three lantern colours and telling their stories,” Seneviratne explains.
One of those stories is of Jade. Four years ago she was diagnosed with a type of leukemia not common in children — a devastating reality for her family and which, thanks to aggressive treatment and a stem cell transplant from her sister, resulted in Jade being here today. Because of this success story, Jade has been chosen as this year’s Light the Night Walk Honoured Hero.
“Every year we go through the teams that we know (with a survivor),” says Seneviratne, “because we want to find a survivor to honour, to be our ambassador, and so this year we thought that Jade was a great idea.” According to Seneviratne, leukemia is the most common cancer in children under the age of 14, so the decision to honour Jade seemed timely and apt.
Jade will not be the only “hero” recognized during the event. This year’s Remembered Hero, Mariano Ezeta, lost his fight earlier this year. “Mariano passed away back in May,” explains Seneviratne, “He was 24 years old, and was training for the Olympics when he got diagnosed, and about a year and a half later he passed away.” Jade and Mariano’s stories can be found at lightthenight.ca.
It is free to participate in the walk, but Seneviratne encourages everyone interested to register ahead of time. The Light the Night Walk takes place Saturday, Oct. 21 beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Eau Claire Festival Market. Details, registration info and hero stories at lightthenight.ca. And, since everything is outdoors, everyone should prepare for Calgary weather.
Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.