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Cancer event raises $227K
Light the Night draws thousands
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Nicholas Woodall puts a temporary tattoo on Suzan Knight’s cheek during the North Metro Light the Night event Saturday at the Cumming Fairgrounds. - photo by Autumn Vetter

More than 3,500 people turned out for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s first North Metro Light the Night event Saturday.

Held at the Cumming Fairgrounds, the event featured festival-type activities and live entertainment prior to a two-mile walk to Forsyth Central High School.

On Monday, Director Mary Martin said the event raised more than $227,000 for the society, which supports medical research of blood cancers.

“[Forsyth County] has been phenomenal,” she said. “The community and businesses rallying around this event has been amazing and we’re so grateful for all the support.”

Teams signed up to participate in the walk, raising money prior to the event.

One of the largest teams at the event was Stick It 2 Cancer, a Forsyth-based nonprofit organization founded by John and Torri Westmoreland. John Westmoreland was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year.

He’s now cancer free.

Torri Westmoreland said their team had more than 300 walkers at Light the Night and raised some $65,000 for the cause.

“It’s just been unbelievable,” she said. “Since we started Stick It 2 Cancer we’ve gotten so much support from the Forsyth County community. We have over 16 businesses who are part of the organization and who’ve given.”

While they didn’t have quite as many walkers as Team Stick It 2 Cancer, Team Taylor made a strong showing at the walk.

Laurie Benson, mother of 4-year-old Taylor Benson, said about 73 people walked with them. Taylor was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago and is still undergoing treatments.

The family lives in Knoxville, Tenn., but has many extended family members in Forsyth County.

Benson said her son understood the meaning of the walk and was excited to take part.

“He loves our [team] shirts with the monster truck and ‘Let’s Crush Cancer,’” she said.

Some walkers didn’t join a team but still wanted to show their support. Suzan Knight came with a friend.

“I was 4 years old when I lost my mom to leukemia,” Knight said. “She was just 23 years old.

“This is my way of keeping her memory alive and fighting for a cure.”

Westmoreland said the event was like a big family reunion.

“It’s like being with [3,500] of your closest family and friends,” she said. “We’ve all sort of become a band of brothers.”

She thanked those who support events such as Light the Night for helping to save her husband’s life.

“There’s now a greater than 90 percent cure rate for Hodgkin’s [lymphoma] and that’s thanks largely to LLS research and everyone who supports LLS,” she said.