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An evening stroll raises money for research

A FishHawk Ranch resident get a head start on the cancer research benefit by throwing a block party.

JANET ZINK
Published October 3, 2003

LITHIA - For Pam Bober, the response was automatic.

When she logged onto the FishHawk Ranch Web site in August and read that the community needed volunteers to raise money and recruit participants for an event supporting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, she immediately signed up.

Bober's mother, who lives in Texas, was diagnosed with lymphoma two years ago. Her disease is in remission now, but Bober felt compelled to get involved.

"It has been so close to me and my family," said Bober, who lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and two children.

In addition to signing people up for the Light the Night Walk on Oct. 18, she organized a football block party that on Sept. 21 raised $530 for the society.

Light the Night, a nationwide event, raises awareness of blood cancers and money for research. Walkers carry balloons illuminated from the inside with tiny flashlights. Supporters carry red balloons, and survivors and patients carry white balloons.

"It's very beautiful having these people starting at dusk and ending when it's dark," said Sue Corson, campaign coordinator for the Suncoast Chapter of the society.

The event includes music and food before the 2-mile walk starts. It's free to participate, although those who carry balloons are asked to collect donations in advance.

More than 670,000 people in the United States have leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers. Leukemia alone causes more deaths among children younger than 15 than any other disease in the country. The Suncoast Chapter hopes to raise $227,000 this year, Corson said, through efforts in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Naples and Brandon. The society launched the Light the Night Walk five years ago. This is the first year supporters can participate in a walk in the Brandon area.

Corson predicts that at least 500 people will carry balloons at FishHawk Ranch. Locally, she said, it will be topped only by the 5-year-old Tampa event, scheduled for Nov. 8 at Al Lopez Park. She expects up to 1,000 people there.

FishHawk got involved through the efforts of Chad Horne, president of Windward Homes, whose son died of leukemia last year. Horne also built two homes in Hillsborough County, sold them and donated the proceeds to the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society.

As word of the walk spread, Brandon area businesses organized teams for the FishHawk event.

"It's been overwhelming," Corson said. "We've had a great response."

- Janet Zink can be reached at 661-2441 or jzink@sptimes.com

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