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SMC hosts 1st ‘Light the Night’ walk

Nikki Taylor and Katlyn Smith | Friday, October 5, 2007

Saint Mary’s hosted the South Bend “Light the Night” walk Thursday – a 2.3-mile walk to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with all funds raised going toward research to cure blood cancer.

Saint Mary’s freshman Kathy Chlebda, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2006 and finished treatment in April, e-mailed Saint Mary’s over the summer to see if the “Light the Night” walk took place in South Bend.

The walk has happened in South Bend before, but this was the first year the event was held at Saint Mary’s.

Until Chlebda’s e-mail, “I had never heard of the walk before,” said Carrie Call, the director of the Office for Social and Civil Engagement at Saint Mary’s. “It’s beautiful.”

Call, along with head softball coach Erin Sullivan, helped organize the event at Saint Mary’s.

The walk took place at dusk, and each participant carried a red balloon with a light inside. Blood cancer survivors carried a white balloon.

“It was very moving, which I wasn’t expecting,” Call said. “Meeting people face to face is the really powerful stuff.”

“Light the Night” had 330 people registered this morning, but at walk time approximately 450 people showed up, said Crystal Jones, Indiana’s “Light the Night” director.

The youngest survivor present was an eight and a half month-old girl. She was diagnosed at four and half months. The oldest survivor was a man in his seventies, Call said.

Many Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students participated in the walk. Participants enter individually or as part of a team.

“Team Kathy,” named for Chlebda, raised the most money, Call said.

Other student groups walking included athletic teams and the Saint Mary’s Board of Governance.

Saint Mary’s senior Maggie Jespersen walked with a team of other elementary education majors called “Team El-Ed.”

“[The walk] is really cool,” Jespersen said. “It’s a really good turnout. It’s really wonderful seeing all the T-shirts for the different teams.”

Notre Dame sophomore Bryan Hoffman also did the walk.

“My brother’s girlfriend is a survivor, and we did the walk in high school,” he said. “It was fun community building before the walk.”

Prior to the walk, survivors of blood cancers shared their stories. Each year’s event honors a person who is or has battled a blood cancer. This year’s South Bend Honored Hero was Paige Robinson.

Diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five, Robinson has been in remission for five years and will attend seventh grade at Trinity Lutheran School in Elkhart, Ind.

She encouraged students to raise money for research of the disease.

Founded in 1959, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has raised more than $550.8 million for research targeting blood cancers.

Jones summed up the evening’s events as a success.

“This turnout and this community really came our and wrapped their arms around us,” Jones said.