The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada will host their annual Light the Night Walk this coming Saturday. Alyssa Brandone, 23-year-old cancer survivor, Concordia graduate and campaign coordinator for the foundation, is no stranger to this cause.
Diagnosed at the age of 11 with acute myeloid leukemia, a common form of leukemia present in adults over the age of 60, Brandone began treatment to eradicate the disease shortly after.
“The treatment was very intense, and could have killed me alone,” she explained. “Despite odds being against me, after my first treatment I was pronounced in complete remission.”
Brandone said joining the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with the support of her family back in 2006 allowed them to move on from the experience and come to terms with what had happened.
“When we first started raising money, we were clueless,” she said. “Our galas started with less than 200 people, and now we need to refuse people from how popular they’ve become.”
Known as “Alyssa’s Crew,” Brandone’s team has managed to raise more than $350,000 since their annual galas began in 2006. Their latest and largest success, Brandone stated, was a golf tournament held earlier this year which raised more than $75,000. Brandone and her team will be walking this year in hopes of continuing to raise more money to find a cure.
“The Light the Night Walk is a night where Montrealers join together at twilight to walk in unison for a cure,” said Brandone. “Individuals walk with a lantern that has a different significance depending on the color: red means you’re a supporter, white a survivor, and gold in memory.”
Sofia Guay, national campaign director for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, described Brandone’s team as being the most dedicated family the foundation has had. Guay highlighted the importance of getting involved with charities.
“Charities receive absolutely no support from the government,” said Guay. “They need support by individuals who care for a cure.”
Guay also commented on medical advancements that have been found based on the funds that have been raised.
“The survival rate for leukemia has gone from 40 per cent to 90 per cent. There has been a lot of progress but there are still deadly diseases out there that have no prevention,” she noted.
Five thousand people are expected to walk on Oct. 19 with the foundation hoping to raise one million dollars.
“What started off as just raising money to help, has turned into a career,” Brandone said. “Not only am I supporting my team, but teams across Quebec. If I can continue to help raise money and awareness for a disease that affects the lives of so many, I will.”
photo cutline 1: Cancer survivor Alyssa Brandone makes a difference for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
photo cutline 2: “Alyssa’s Crew” at the 2010 Light the Night Walk after a year spent raising funds