LANTERNS will light up the South East sky tonight as a key fundraiser brings the community together in unity.
For over a decade, the Leukaemia Foundation’s Light the Night has been hosted in Mount Gambier, raising awareness and funds for urgently needed blood cancer research.
Event host Aleathia Holland has selflessly taken over leadership of the event this year, sharing a connection with the foundation.
“My family was thrown into fight mode last year as we struggled to come to terms with my sister Melena’s blood cancer diagnosis,” Ms Holland said.
“No one really realised how serious it was, we arrived at a cancer specialist and I remember him opening her file and looking straight up to say she needs to go to the hospital immediately.
“It was like they were on a race with time, they had never seen anything like it spreading from her chest to her neck and her stomach.”
The cancer was said to be fast growing and put pressure on Melena’s body, resulting in fluid around her heart and lungs.
“Over her four months of treatment, the foundation in Adelaide put an amazing team together to try and help her,” Ms Holland said.
“They started chemo straight away before they even found out what she had and she was then hooked up to chemo for 24 hours five days straight.
“The foundation covered everything you could think of for us, bringing toys for the kids, fuel vouchers and covered our accommodation, taking one less stressful thing off of our shoulders.”
One of 10 core committee members, Josephine Patzel coordinated the event last year and is doing everything she can to help Ms Holland.
“I love Aleathia’s family and Melena had a very loving and supportive family and friend network to get her through the process,” Ms Patzel said.
“It is hard enough going through cancer and the treatment involved, you do not even have time to think about what you actually need.
“Rural people need to uproot for a substantial amount of time, while city people get to stay at home and that is what makes the Leukemia Village so important.”
With an original aim of $2000-$3000, the committee has exceeded its expectations, already raising over $7000 before the night has begun.
Casey Allen and Lechelle Earl lost their sister Bianca 10 years ago to leukemia and originally brought Light the Night to Mount Gambier.
“Casey is still on the committee this year and has organised the Red Cross to become involved,” Ms Patzel said.
“They are raising awareness as blood only lasts for 42 days and we need a constant blood supply.
“I have been to the Leukemia Village in Adelaide and have seen the facilities, it is amazing and you can definitely see where the money goes.”
Being the only Light the Night event in South Australia other than Adelaide, the committee aims to widen its reach in coming years.
“This is my first year hosting the event and I will continue to develop and grow it for the next three years,” Ms Holland said.
“This year we have involved South East businesses by donating and receiving packages in return.
“So many people feel isolated and we want them to feel part of this community filled with so much love and support for everyone that is involved.”
People from all backgrounds and ages have volunteered to become involved in the event.
“There are people that do not know anyone that has leukemia or a blood cancer, but they have heard all these stories and want to be involved,” Ms Holland said.
“People have rung me asking for a job and they will not take no for an answer.
“We have had everyone jump on board and the important thing about it is the money will be something that country folk can utilise.”
Rapid Relief has donated over 300 items to the public, with all children receiving one free sausage on the night.
Lanterns will be available for purchase on the night, gold to remember loved ones lost to blood cancer, white for those facing their own diagnosis and blue to show community support for all those affected.
The event will feature live entertainment and interactive games for children, offering something for everyone, at the Cave Gardens.
Performers will include Ben Hood, Tamara Seeley and Ellyana Sims.
The catered event will also feature a photograph booth and the audience is encouraged to bring along a picnic rug and a chair from 5.30pm-9.30pm.
Lanterns can be purchased for $20 or a wristband for $5 from participating retailers with all money raised donated back to the Leukemia Foundation.