Last Friday’s Luminary Walk, the grand finale of the local 2013 Pennies for Patients campaign, honored cancer patients and thanked the community for giving of their money, time, blood and even their hair.
At the March 15 Shine on the Sierra Luminary Walk held at the Bishop Union High School track, the Bishop Unified School District-wide fundraiser to benefit the national Leukemia and Lymphoma Society ended as luminaries were lit; people walked, ate, shopped and had their faces painted; music played on; and fundraising totals were announced.
Campaign organizers from BUHS, Home Street Middle and Bishop Elementary School led students’ efforts as they raised $10,895 for LLS. At the reins were Home Street School Secretary Kristin Carr and Counselor Vicka Stout, BUHS Counselor Kathleen Stout and English Teacher/ASB Director Mandy Kemp; and Bishop Elementary School Assistant Principal Heather Carr and Counselor Jean Sprague.
Kids accumulated close to $11,000 through door-to-door rounds and brand new and tried-and-true activities. The campaign was “a great success,” said Kathleen Stout. “We raised more money than last year” when BUSD put $8,249 into the statewide $484,000 LLS pot.
Once again, HSMS took the district lead this year, collecting $5,550; Carol Howard’s sixth-graders were the top class, bringing in $586. Bishop Elementary School collected $3,000; Trisha Wallace’s third-graders netted $800. BUHS accounted for $1,693; Karyn Holland’s top-class raised $324.
A fundraiser-first, a homemade “Harlem Shake” video starring HSMS faculty, went global at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqreDnFj1r8  when it earned more than $700 toward HSMS’ total.
The luminary walk was responsible for $1,255 of the BUSD total; $625 went to LLS and $603 went to support Gia Gehringer’s family’s ongoing out-of-town treatment costs. Walk contributors included: walk participants who donated $5 per luminary bag; Lions Club corndogs which attracted $170; and Happy Hoods founder Carrie Coudek, who donated part of the sales of her custom-made anti-bullying sweatshirts, Carr said.
The Shine on Sierra event was deejayed by BUHS students Cory Barron, Aaron Lamb and Nick Alexander, who kept the announcements and tunes flowing out into the slightly breezy, mid-70 degree night air.
As the sun set, the circle of glowing luminary bags around the quarter-mile track grew. The bags were inscribed with names of local cancer patients who have died, who are currently battling the disease and who are in remission. Many bags were dedicated to this year’s local poster kids, toddlers Ryker Carr and Gehringer.
First to take the field were survivors with friends and family, who took a quick turn past center-field luminaries that spelled out HOPE and returned to the balloon-festooned finish line. Carr said HSMS teacher/coach Sheri Sonke and students blew up more than 400 balloons to make the finish line towers.
The walkers were then joined by a crowd of supporters from the stands and the procession walked the entire track. Painted faces, courtesy of the BUHS cheer squad, abounded. Other stand-outs were eighth-graders Alan Torres, Andrew Lugo Santana and Gerardo Mendez, who had volunteered to endure crazy buzz cuts to raise money for the campaign. Torres said one of his friends bought $65 in Cut for the Cure tickets just to see his pal get shaved.
The Pennies for Patients drive also collected 64 pints of blood and18 bone marrow registries at the March 7 BUHS drive. Stout, herself a leukemia survivor, said, “There was a great bone marrow registry turn out.” In fact, one local resident “already received a bone marrow transplant the day before” on March 14, “so it was very touching.”
Carr gave “many thanks” to students and staff for “their amazing and rewarding efforts.” She named event coordinators as well as BUHS ASB and Link Crew volunteers and track team, Nicole and Rick Behrendt, Shelly Daugherty and Roy Gillam. Saving “the most important for last,” Carr thanked the community members who attended the second annual “walk for cancer awareness. We hope you had a meaningful experience; the donations we received some day may help save a life. We hope to see more people next year as this is truly an event that means so much to so many.”
One of the many was a teary-eyed cancer survivor’s wife who approached Carr at the end of the event. “Thank you so much for this event. My husband hadn’t come to terms with the fact that he had cancer but is in remission and a survivor.” Participating in the walk “had a huge impact on us emotionally and opened our eyes to where we are in our lives and how fortunate we are.”
For more information about LLS or to donate, visit www.LLS.org .