Times Leader to honor Rich Gibson at walk

MARTINS FERRY – In honor of their former colleague and friend Rich “Hoot” Gibson, employees of The Times Leader have joined together to form a team for the 14th annual Leukemia & Lymphoma (LLS) Society Light the Night Walk. The walk is non-competitive and will be held on Thursday, April 10 at Wheeling Jesuit University rain or shine. Last year’s walk raised more than $50,000 from the local community.

The Times Leader’s Managing Editor Robert “Bubba” Kapral suggested naming the team after Gibson’s weekly column in The Times Leader, “Reality Check.”

“The Light the Night Walk is an ideal way to pay tribute to Rich. He staged a valiant and year-long fight against cancer,” said Kapral. Gibson died on July 3, 2013 after a hard fought battle with mantle cell lymphoma.

“Thanks to organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, great advances have been made in treatments of lymphoma and leukemia. However, Hoot’s cancer was rare and much research has yet to be done to find an effective treatment for that specific type,” said Shaunna Dunder Hershberger, Reality Check team captain and Times Leader Lifestyles Editor.

The Light the Night Walk is a national fundraising campaign aimed at attracting participants of all ages and abilities to reach out to friends, family and co-workers to raise funds to fight blood cancers. All funds raised support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life for patients and their families. According to the National Cancer Institute, one person in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer approximately every four minutes and accounted for an estimated 9 percent of new cancer diagnoses in 2013.

Locally, all funds raised at the walk will directly benefit patients in the local LLS chapter, Western PA and West Virginia. “That’s why I feel good about supporting the LLS,” said Dunder Hershberger, who also took advantage of its patient assistance programs when she was a patient. “I know where the money goes – nowhere. It stays right here to help people we know and love.” Additionally, funds raised at the walk also go directly toward life-saving research that is sorely needed to help eliminate and treat some of the rare forms of the disease.

New to the walk this year is a special remembrance ceremony. Walkers will gather prior to the walk in the center of the McDonough Center track and honor those who have passed.

The ceremony will be led by a speaker from Wheeling’s Amedisys Hospice Care and LLS’s Patient Services Manager Francine Morrison. “The ceremony is a time for the community to join together and remember their loved ones who lost their battles with blood cancer,” Morrison explained.

After the ceremony, approximately 700 participants will walk in honor of their friends, family members and loved ones, carrying illuminated lanterns – white for survivors, red for supporters and gold in memory of loved ones lost to cancer. Together, they form a community of caring, bringing light to the dark world of cancer.

“It is an evening for not only remembrance, but also celebration,” Morrison said. “It is an evening filled with positivity and hope. The community bands together and really makes a significant impact.”

“We are doing this so more research can be funded to help people in a situation like the one Hoot faced,” said Dunder Hershberger. “While he was undergoing treatment, Hoot spoke often of returning to the sidelines to cover games. He didn’t get the chance to go back, but we can make a difference for someone else. We can help someone else realize his or her dream to get back out there, cancer-free.”

“Hoot and I developed a cherished friendship through our three decades of working together. I believe that Light the Night Walk helps me to reaffirm that friendship while also stepping up to help an organization committed to fighting the deadly disease,” Kapral added. “I plan on becoming an annual participant in this event and encourage everyone who called Rich a friend to do the same.”

Those interested in helping team Reality Check meet its $750 fundraising goal can donate by visiting the team’s fundraising page: pages.lightthenight.org/wpa/Wheeling14/RealityCheck or by sending a donation to: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 333 E. Carson St., Suite 444, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219, ATTN: Ohio Valley Walk 2014 Team Reality Check. Anyone interested in joining team Reality Check can simply join the team by visiting the team’s fundraising page or by contacting Dunder Hershberger at 633-1131 or sdunder@timesleaderonline.com. Those who wish to participate are encouraged to register prior to the night of the walk.

The walk will be held at Wheeling Jesuit University’s McDonough Center. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the remembrance ceremony and a brief program. The walk will begin following the program at approximately 7:30. For more information about or to register your own team for the Ohio Valley Light the Night Walk, visit lightthenight.org/wpa or contact Codi Fleet at 412-395-2887 or Codi.Fleet@lls.org.

After the Light the Night Walk in April, a group of Times Leader employees and friends of Gibson will once again team up, this time for the Belmont County Relay For Life on June 13-14. Themed “Cruisin’ for a Cure,” the event will be held June 13-14 at the St. Clairsville Athletic Field. Opening ceremonies take place on June 13 at 6 p.m. Team captain Gwynne Messenger decided on the team name “Batting a Thousand” due to Gibson’s love of baseball. The team’s theme is “We’re Hitting Cancer Out of the Park!” To find out more, visit www.relayforlife.org/belmontcounty. More details about Gibson’s Relay for Life team will be forthcoming.