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Leukemia group hopes to raise $850,000

More than 2,000 people are expected to carry colorful balloons up Biscayne Boulevard on Thursday in honor of those affected by blood cancer at the annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk.
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BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
In 2007, Luke Webb, 30, had a dream wedding with his wife, Molly, in the Cayman Islands.

But just a short time away of celebrating their one-year anniversary, Webb was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

“It came as such as a shock since I was so young,” said Webb, who was 27 at the time.

Webb learned of the disease after he went to the hospital for acute abdominal pain.

Luckily for Webb, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, stepped up to help him with financial assistance and information about the cancer.

“It was confusing at the time when you get diagnosed because you don’t know much information about the disease,” said Webb, a general manager at Miami Ski Nautique.

In February, Webb was notified that he was cancer-free and he will be celebrating his survival as an Honored Hero at the 10th annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society “Light the Night Walk” from 6 to9 p.m. Thursday at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd.

The nonprofit society guided Webb through the difficult times, he said.

“I am excited and honored,” said Webb, who was put on Gleevec, an oral drug used to treat different cancers, and continues to take it twice a day. “It’s an important organization that helps a lot of people with this disease.”

Webb will be the main speaker at the event.

At the walk, the street will be lit as participants will hold illuminated colored balloons — white for survivors, red for supporters and gold for remembering a loved one.

Each balloon will have a small twinkling light. Supporters will walk for about a mile. The stroll starts at Bayfront Park, goes behind the Intercontinental Hotel and then up on Biscayne Boulevard to Bayside and finishes back at Bayfront Park.

The Light the Night walk raises money for blood cancer research and patient services. It is an opportunity to honor and commemorate lives touched by blood cancers said Sheriann Namer, campaign director for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in South Florida.

“This is the one event where we get to work so closely with patients and their families,” she said. “It is such an inspirational site to see all the lit balloons and know that each color has significance.”

With headquarters in New York, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has 59 chapters in the United States and Canada. It is the world’s third largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services.

Joanne Davis, executive director of the society’s South Florida chapter, anticipates about 2,500 people to attend with over 100 teams raising funds. The team with the most money raised receives an award at the post walk award reception.

The goal this year is to raise $850,000 between three walks that take place in Southern and Western Florida, said Davis.

Last year the events raised $760,000.

The walk has been held in different locations since it started in 2000 including Coral Gables and Coconut Grove.

Namer said the event makes a major difference in cancer research.

“This walk is extremely important in our fight against blood cancers because 76 cents of every dollar raised from the walk goes straight to our mission to find cures for blood cancers by funding blood cancer research while improving the quality of life of patients and their families,” she said.

The Light the Night event will also be held in Fort Lauderdale at Huizenga Plaza, 32 East Las Olas Blvd., on Nov. 13.

As for Webb, he is grateful for the assistance.

“I was fortunate, but there are others who haven’t and this for their honor,” he said.

For more information on the walk, go to www.lightthenight.org/sfl.

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