Walk for leukemia & lymphoma research raises more than $7,000

Light the Night walk draws 90 people, led by five-year-old cancer survivors

Aly Davis and Camryn Hunter, both cancer survivors, led the Light the Night walk on Saturday.
Aly Davis and Camryn Hunter, both cancer survivors, led the Light the Night walk on Saturday.
Rachael Klinoski, left, and Heather Ritter helped organizer Mark Woodcroft with the march.
Rachael Klinoski, left, and Heather Ritter helped organizer Mark Woodcroft with the march.

After almost three years of treatment, including about 50 overnight admissions and 150 day visits to Kingston General Hospital, five-year-old Aly Davis is currently cancer-free.

With friend and fellow survivor Camryn Hunter, Davis led Kingston’s third Light the Night Walk on Saturday.

Ninety people attended the walk, which raised $7,400 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. A total of $22,400 has been raised since the local walk began in 2012.

Participants who raised $100 received a t-shirt and lantern to “light up the night” during the walk, which lasted between two to 2.5 kilometres and began around 7 p.m.

Red lanterns were carried by supporters, white lanterns by survivors and gold lanterns by participants walking in memory of a lost loved one. Illuminated balloons were also available for those who came out to support the cause.

Demi Antzoulatos, campaign coordinator for Light the Night Ottawa, came to Kingston to facilitate the walk.

“We came more as a courtesy to be able to facilitate the walk and to make sure that there was the overall experience and mission moments so that people can have the overall experience that they normally get at a national walk,” she said.

She added that the idea behind the walk is to have a sense of community, while the “overall experience” includes “music to pump you up and get you excited” and a “mission moment”, given by a speaker, to remind people why they’re walking and supporting this cause.

Audrey Jones, Davis’ mother, was this year’s speaker.

Davis was diagnosed with leukemia at two-and-a-half-years-old, her mother said. Now, after almost three years of treatment, she’s cancer-free.

“No chemo, no drugs, nothing. She’s just a normal kid,” Jones said.

Jones added that Davis is doing really well and is “very aware that she had leukemia.”

“She believes or understands it as a bug that she had in her blood and that she had to take medication to kill the bug. And now, you know, with the recent Terry Fox walk and things like that, she’s very proud that she’s a cancer survivor,” she said.

“I’m not sure how much she actually gets of what that means, but she’ll articulate it that way.”

Queen’s medical student Mark Woodcroft has been organizing the walk for the last three years.

After planning a group trip to the Light the Night Walk in Ottawa proved difficult in 2012, Woodcroft, Med ’17, created a local walk in Kingston that same year.

“I thought, why don’t we just have people walk here because we’re supporting a good cause in Kingston, more people will come and hopefully raise more awareness in the community,” Woodcroft said.

“So we just decided to stage a walk, sort of on a whim, in Kingston.”

As a result of the Kingston walk, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada launched an initiative in 2013 in order to facilitate walks hosted by other people.

“They thought, you know, this guy’s having his own walk, why don’t we just let other people have their own walk too?” Woodcroft said.

Fifteen walks have been hosted as part of the “Host Your Own Walk” initiative, in addition to 11 national walks that take place across the country. Woodcroft said he thinks the program will be extended into the United States.

While addressing participants before the walk started at Summerhill Park, Woodcroft said his involvement with Light the Night stemmed from his previous work as a leukemia researcher in Botterell Hall.

“I became really interested in the cause and I wanted to do more than just pipette,” he said.

The cause has recently affected him personally, when his 87-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer called Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia.

“87 years old is really old to be having chemotherapy,” Woodcroft said. “What’s great about research is that we’ve been able to figure out ways to treat older people with diseases, such that they can tolerate chemotherapy safely without putting their lives in danger.

“Because of research, my grandma was able to be successfully treated with chemotherapy and she’s now in remission from Waldenström's Macroglobulinemia.”


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