The Jump in For a Cure leukemia and lymphoma team helped save lives Saturday night as they prepared themselves for the Light the Night Walk on Oct. 19.
Every other year, they raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by hosting benefit nights. This year, supporters came out to American Legion Post 454 in Hobart for a spaghetti dinner and raffles.
Sisters Jenny Long and Melissa Medina hosted the event, just as they have done with various other leukemia and lymphoma benefit nights.
A big part of the benefit is finding sponsors for the raffles and the food they serve, since all the money raised goes to research.
“I spend hours and hours emailing, and mailing letters and researching online for places that donate,” said Long.
Fazoli’s and Texas Roadhouse donated spaghetti and rolls, respectively, for the volunteers to serve to supporters.
On the raffle end of things, Long got donations from organizations like the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago White Sox, and Indiana University. She was even able to secure four Disney World passes, which are around a $500 value on their own.
Thanks to the big names that help support the cause, Long’s benefits have raised around $4,000 in past years. They estimated that around 250 people would show up for this benefit alone.
The Long and Medina families have been participating in Light the Night Walk since 2008, and for a very personal reason. In 2005, Long was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.
Medina holds the society in such high regards because they invented the medication that saved her sister’s life. Long’s diagnosis did not look hopeful until they found out about the medication. Thankfully, Long is now an eight year survivor.
Medina grabbed a centerpiece off one of the tables and proceeded to read off the distressing statistics of blood cancers.
“This is absolutely devastating to me, and I cry every time I look at it, but [these are] the statistics on the amount of people who die every day from blood cancer,” said Medina.
According to her information, someone in the US dies from blood cancer every 10 minutes, which adds up to nearly 148 people per day.
“That’s scary, because we know three people on our team [who had blood cancer], and that could have been them,” said Medina.
The Jump in for a Cure team’s three blood cancer survivors are Long, Ronnie Wilkins, and James Gilbert.
Both Long and Wilkins had leukemia, and Gilbert had lymphoma. Now, all three are in remission.
“If there wasn’t the money and the research, then me, and James and Ronnie wouldn’t be standing here today,” said Long. “We need the research and the money so they can find a cure.”
One of those survivors, Wilkins, will be 13 on Sept. 30.
Wilkins was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in November of 2011, but has been in remission for almost two years. In order to greatly increase his chance of winning his battle, Wilkins had a bone marrow transplant in April of 2012. Now, he is back at Willowcreek Middle School and out playing baseball for the 13 and under Portage Tribe baseball team.
He and his family have participated in many benefit nights to support his cause. He helps out by assisting in raffle ticket sales and doing small jobs. He really enjoys when his friends show up to support the benefit.
“We’re raising money for cancer, for a good reason,” said Wilkins.
The Wilkins family is also assisting with a benefit night on Tuesday Oct. 1. Lake Central volleyball is hosting Portage during a collaborated Bump Out Cancer night. The players will wear special jerseys that are colored to represent types of cancer. Proceeds from the night will go toward many different cancer research organizations to help support as many as possible.