Two Arlingtonians have been named “Honored Heroes” for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s upcoming annual Light Up the Night event.
Thirty-one year old Rachel Kesselman and 6-year-old Peter Kress were chosen.
“It’s been a pretty special experience for me,” Kesselman said. “It gives me an opportunity to tell my story.”
At the Northern Virginia Light Up the Night 2-mile walk, scheduled for Oct. 20, participants raise funds and awareness for the society’s National Capital Area Chapter in honor of patients or survivors of blood cancers who provide inspiration and support.
Kesselman is a non-Hodgkin lymphoma and leukemia survivor and Kress is currently undergoing treatments for leukemia.
Kesselman was diagnosed in 2011 and responded well to treatments, and her cancer eventually went into remission.
“I found out that grants from LLS played a role in keeping me alive so I thought it would be a great organization to be involved in,” Kessleman said.
Peter Kress’ parents, Adam and Amy, said that when they found out their then 5-year-old son had leukemia in August 2011, a friend suggested getting involved in the lymphoma society and attending the Light Up the Night event.
“We formed a team and we raised a little over $10,000 for the walk,” Adam Kress said.
This year, Adam Kress said his son has been thrilled to be an honored hero. As a hero, he speaks out at events and talks about his experience with leukemia.
“Peter has a great time getting up in front of people, and everyone loves to see him,” Kress said. “It’s been great for Amy and I to share our story and let people know LLS is out there doing research to help find different drugs and treatments for cancer patients.”
There are several Light Up the Night events throughout the region, but next Saturday’s event takes place at the Reston Town Center.
Those who participate release red, white or gold illuminated balloons during the walk — red balloons for supporters, white balloons for survivors, and gold balloons for those who are attending in memory of a loved one who died of cancer.
“Getting out there and being around others who went through the same experience with me was great,” Kesselman said. “It was a very therapeutic and healing experience for me.”
More than 8,500 people nationwide are set participate in support or in memory of blood cancer patients. Last year, the national campaign raised more than $50 million in approximately 185 communities, according to a news release from the society.
Festivities start at 5 p.m. and the walk begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Reston Town Center, 11900 Market Street.
For more information on forming a team or volunteering at an event, visit www.lightthenight.org/nca or call 703-399-2941.