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Fundraiser lights the night
Organizers pleased with turnout, support
A procession of those who have lost loved ones to cancer, as well as cancer survivors and their friends and family, begin to make their way up Castleberry Road from the Cumming Fairgrounds during the North Metro Light the Night Walk. The annual event is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Some 2,500 walkers came out Saturday to raise awareness and support for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s fight against blood cancers.

The second North Metro Light the Night Walk, a fundraiser for the society, set out from the Cumming Fairgrounds at 7:30 p.m.

Walkers made their way up Tribble Gap Road to Forsyth Central High School and back, carrying red, gold or white balloons.

Red balloons symbolized those who walked in support of the society and its mission.

Gold balloons were in the memory of someone who had lost their battle to a blood cancer, while cancer survivors carried white balloons.

Among the participants was Jeanne Agri, who walked to honor her daughter, 3-year-old Isabella Rose Agri.

“My daughter is a leukemia survivor,” Agri said. “She was diagnosed in October 2010 and she finishes her treatments Feb. 18 of next year.

“She’s doing great. Her hair has grown back and it’s great.”

Jessica Reijmer, with LLS, said about 85 teams participated in the walk, which marked its second year in Forsyth County.

“It’s going really well and we’re very excited,” Reijmer said. “We’ve got a lot of great support from the community.”

That support included a number of business teams, such as Stick It to Cancer, a group of small business owners from the Cumming area. The team had more than 380 walkers and raised about $106,000 for the event.

“Stick It to Cancer is a big supporter of ours,” Reijmer said. “They had a goal to raise $104,000, so that’s a big chunk of our goal.”

First set at $200,000, the overall North Metro Light the Night fundraising goal was later increased to $300,000, said Javier De Jesus, marketing manager of the LLS.

“Original forecasts were revised based on the success of the campaign,” he said, noting that final totals had not been reached.

“We raised over $283,000 as of Saturday, but funds are still coming in and we predict that we will easily go over $300,000 once everything is settled,” he said.

Prior to the walk, participants had a chance to enjoy a number of family-friendly activities at the fairgrounds and listen to live music.

There was also a remembrance ceremony, in which family members and friends of who those who have lost their battle to a blood cancer were able to honor their memory.

Participants used roses to symbolize the lives of their loved ones.

Audrey Farmer said she came in memory of her mother, Frances Cotton, and to support her team of co-workers from Siemens in Norcross.

“I felt like it was my duty to come since I’m team captain this year and also in remembrance of my mother,” she said. “I know several survivors of cancer as well, and it’s for a very worthy cause.”

Jean Braun, who participated on the CSI Laboratories team from Alpharetta, said she wanted to support the effort due to her work.

“We’re actually a cancer diagnostic laboratory, so this is a dear cause to our hearts,” she said. “We deal with leukemia and lymphoma every day, all the time. I work with it, I see it every day, so I wanted to come out here.”

As for Agri, she said she had been “holding back” emotions all night.

“There are no words to describe it,” she said when asked what the event meant to her as the mother of a young cancer survivor.

“She was too sick last year for us to come, but I made a point of it this year and was able to raise some money. I was like, we’re doing this.”