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Lighting the Night

Hundreds of Loudoun residents walk to raise money for cancer research.

As dusk settled over Ida Lee Park in Leesburg, the main field was covered with red balloons. Families, friends and co-workers all came together Saturday, Oct. 14, for Loudoun County's third annual Light the Night walk to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Symbolizing the blood cell counts crucial to the diseases with which this volunteer health organization is concerned, survivors and patients carried white balloons and supporters carried red balloons. The balloons are also meant to indicate how many people have been touched by blood-born cancers.

"This is also an avenue to have everyone gather and talk about their similar experiences," Susan Keitges, one of the event's coordinators, said.

Since Sept. 30 the Washington, D.C. area, has been home to five different benefit walks, including events in Prince William County, Montgomery County and Reston.

"We are here to help find a cure," Beth Gorman, deputy executive director of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's National Capitol Area chapter, said. "And we are also here to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families."

More than 60 teams raised money for the society and participated in the event, helping the society work towards its goal of raising $2 million in the Washington, D.C. area. All funds raised by teams participating in Light the Night go directly towards the society's mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma.

Each year Light the Night chooses honored walkers to help raise awareness of the reality of blood cancers. One of this year's honored walkers in Loudoun, Andrew Hughes from Chantilly, was at the walk with his family and the largest team of walkers, who called themselves Team Hughes. Andrew was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in December 2004, when he was 3 years old.

Before the walk, Andrew's father, Bill Hughes, thanked the participants for supporting their family and The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

"This is actually one disease that can be cured," he said. "You have our sincere thanks. It is because of people like you that doctors and nurses around the country are able to do what they do and make the strides that they have."