A VROOM cut through the night air Saturday, as a caped Batman drove through downtown Rockville in a black Lamborghini, leading dance performers, a marching band and hundreds of walkers carrying illuminated balloons, all in an effort to “Light The Night” and raise blood cancer awareness.
The Rockville Light The Night Walk was one of three that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s National Capital Area Chapter is holding in the Washington metro area to help combat leukemia, lymphoma and other blood cancers, said Lisa Pagano, LLS-NCA spokeswoman. LLS-NCA hopes to raise $2.2 million to fight cancer this year. So far, they have raised $1.5 million, Pagano said. “We’re feeling good,” she said.
Dozens of teams and hundreds of individuals supporting victims of the disease attended. Approximately 2,500 people participated in the mile-and-a-half walk, cavorting in the crisp fall weather and presenting a light-hearted face to a disease that, according to Pagano, takes a life every 10 minutes. They walked with illuminated balloons — supporters displayed red, survivors held white, and those who had lost a friend to cancer carried gold ones.
Rett Bush, 5, of Germantown, who was at the event with his mother, Kristen, and Team Rett — his other supporters — was one of the event’s “Honored Heroes.”
Rett developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 3, his mother said. He has had to undergo a brutal regime of chemotherapy, spinal taps, and other therapies, his mother said, but “he has been a rock star for a cancer patient.”
He addressed the crowd, standing on tiptoes to speak into the mic.
“My name is Rett, and I’m a cancer warrior. Thank you for your hard work, and have a good evening!” he told the crowd.
LLS raised $70 million for blood cancer research last year, Pagano said, adding that it is the third most fatal type of cancer, after respiratory and digestive cancers, though treatment for some forms has improved dramatically. The survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, for example, has risen from 3 percent in 1964 to 91 percent today, she said.
But the focus Saturday night was on the stories behind those numbers, ranging from the uplifting to the tragic and poignant.
Marla Potts of Derwood manned Team French Revolution with her daughter, 8-year-old Audrey. Their team was named for her husband, Russ.
“His last name is French, and he came up with [the name] when he was newly diagnosed. He wanted to start a revolution against cancer, and he did it … but cancer is really tricky.”
French, who was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008, later developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia and passed away in 2010.
“It’s been very emotional for me and the kids to have friends and family to watch and help us,” she said.
Team Joey, meanwhile, was at a tent nearby.
Joey Norris, 14, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, he said. He relapsed in 2010.
The news was “really hard,” Norris said, who was dressed in a hoodie and jeans and oversized baseball cap and talking with his uncle, Gus Montes-de Oca. “My parents told me I wasn’t going to be able to play sports that year and that I would have to really mature up and fight every battle.”
He has been in remission since August 2010.
“I think it’s amazing,” he said. “So many people connected to this terrible disease, and you know, this is Saturday — I’m missing my homecoming for this. It’s very unselfish for them to come out and give five hours to raise money for this.”