Light the Night Walk enlightens volunteers


Breanna Dobos (12) hands a walker a gold lantern in remembrance of someone who did not survive blood cancer. She volunteered at the walk as a representative of NHS.

Cassidy Niewiadomski, Author

The Illinois chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society hosted its third annual Light the Night Walk at the Lake County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Oct. 24. Students from N-teens and NHS walked away from the event with inspired hearts.

“I thought it was wonderful and a great way for people to honor their family and friends who suffered from leukemia. I really liked the lanterns and what they symbolized,” Elise Classen (12) said.

Classen’s volunteer role involved handing lanterns to walkers throughout the night. She handed supporters red lanterns, survivors white lanterns and those walking in remembrance gold lanterns. Despite the simplicity, the task became sensitive when a woman approached the table asking for extra lanterns.

“We only had a few gold lanterns left, and I could only hand out one lantern per family. I told her that I would try to get her more if we had extra before the walk started. I ended up saving her five lanterns. She was really emotional when I gave her the extras and told me about her husband. He had passed away in June, and he really wanted to walk this year. Her whole family was walking in his honor. She hugged me and asked if some of us would take a picture with her for her memory book. She gave us bracelets with her husband’s initials and said she really hoped to see us next year. It was really emotional for all of us, and it was nice to help her family get some sort of closure with the walk,” Classen said.

During the pre-walk ceremony, the location’s honorary hero, Ronnie Wilkins, shared a speech about his journey. His story enlightened Brandon Grabarek (12) about how to respond to hardships throughout life.  

“The most inspiring part of the walk was listening to the Portage High School student who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2011 but has since made a full recovery and has raised over $3000 for leukemia research. As high school students, sometimes we become preoccupied with things that are not very important, and when you see a fellow high school student overcome a terrible disease, such as leukemia, it really demonstrates how you should keep fighting and never give up,” Grabarek said.