The following article was provided by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Illinois.
A young Naperville boy who lost his battle to cancer nearly a decade ago continues to inspire local residents to raise money in pursuit of a cure.
Joseph Wisniewski died of acute myeloid leukemia in 2003 and will be remembered on , at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s annual Light The Night Walk at Berens Park in Elmhurst.
Joseph’s family and friends will join thousands of other participants to honor survivors, remember loved ones and walk in recognition of those still battling blood cancers.
Born in 1992, Joseph was always incredibly social and active. He loved NASCAR, video games and Hot Wheels. In 2001, Joseph was plagued by ear infections, random bruising and intense fatigue. He was diagnosed with leukemia.
“That was when we first heard about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,” says Patti Wisniewski, Joseph’s mother. “We received information about his condition from them. Those days were such a blur, but I remember reading everything I could get my hands on about his disease. The knowledge LLS provided was the only hope I had that my son would survive this horrible illness.”
In 2001, Joseph’s leukemia went into remission, and Joseph and his family took a trip to Florida to meet one of his favorite NASCAR drivers. When he arrived home, doctors told Joseph and his family that he had relapsed. After a successful stem cell transplant, the young boy left the hospital and prepared to return back to school, although he never got the chance. Joseph’s cancer returned, and the doctors said that there was nothing more they could do.
When he learned the news, 10-year-old Joseph said to the doctor, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to find out how to stop this and e-mail you so no other child has to die from this stupid disease.”
Sadly, Joseph lost his battle about 40 days later. Patti, her family and friends have kept Joseph’s memory alive at the Light The Night Walk in the western suburbs, walking each year as Team Luna to raise funds so that other children do not succumb to the disease that took Joseph’s life.
“We are so appreciative to the Wisniewski family for being willing to share Joseph’s story,” says LLS executive director Pam Swenk. “As hard as it is to tell the story, it helps people understand how important Light The Night is, and what a difference The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society makes. Without the commitment of each and every walker that comes out and carries a balloon to symbolize our mission, and the dollars raised, we would not be able to invest in the research that is changing the quality of life for people living with cancer.”
Light The Night, LLS’s annual fund-raising walk, is held in communities throughout the country to celebrate and commemorate lives, like Joseph’s, that have been touched by blood cancer. More than 8,000 people in Illinois will participate by assembling teams of co-workers, family members and friends to raise funds for life-saving blood cancer research and patient services.
The Light The Night Walk is a 2-mile, non competitive event. Participants carry illuminated balloons while they walk: white for survivors, red for supporters and gold to remember those we have lost to blood cancer. Pre-walk festivities include music, food, entertainment and kids activities beginning at 4:30 p.m. Our Remembered Hero Joseph and other Honored Heroes will be recognized during a brief pre-walk program that begins at 6 p.m.
The 2012 Light The Night Walk takes place in Chicago, Elmhurst and Rockford on Saturday, Oct. 20, and in Glenview on Sunday, Oct. 21. Last year, participants raised more than $50 million nationwide, and nearly $2 million in Illinois. For more information or to register for a local walk, contact the Illinois Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at (312) 651-7354 or visit www.lightthenight.org/il.