LLS says hi, vows crusade for cures

April 28, 2013 Updated: May 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm
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It was an event new to Colorado Springs, and oh what an impact it had.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Man & Woman of the Year - Colorado Springs filled a small ballroom at the Antlers Hilton, drew seven teams of competitors and raised $67,200. And, promised enthusiastic coordinators, you haven't seen anything yet.

Taking top honors were Lisa Simms and Todd Matthews. Simms, a community volunteer with Newborn Hope, CASA's Light of Hope and Tri-Lakes Women's Club, called it an honor to help LLS, a nonprofit working to prolong the life of her father, who has leukemia. Her dad, she said, didn't want to tell anyone when he was diagnosed. 'I had to ask if it was OK if I outed him for this campaign ' and with his blessing she and her team raised thousands of dollars.

Matthews, campus director at IntelliTec Medical Institute, volunteers with Junior Achievement, Rotary, Women's Resource Agency and Summit Glen Independent Living Facility. His team rallied as he raised money in honor of his brother, who died of cancer. Not only that, Matthews said, it's facing the reality that kids the age of his own son have been diagnosed with blood cancers.

Other competitors were Lynda Cink of LnB Connectors; Dayna Jenkins, Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center; Nikole Mazich, Heuberger Motors, who campaigned for friends and family members with cancer but especially her grandmother, who had battled cancer for seven years; Michael Peltier, of telecom consulting company Q'LINK, a dad who has been a Big Brothers Big Sisters 'Big ' for four years; and Brian Tally, president/CEO of Turf Direct Landscaping and a disabled veteran who volunteers with Make-a-Wish, 'Extreme Home Makeover ' and National Mill Dog Rescue.

Sweethearts of the campaign were two 8-year-olds, both in remission. Taylor Jones was 3 when she was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, lost her hair twice, had 'lots of medicine and doctors ' but now has lots of second-grade friends and 'gets to go to all different places ' as Girl of the Year. Adam Walraven was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia as a 21-month-old, had six years of pokes and medications and chemo but is now a second-grader who plays football, baseball and X-Box and likes snakes.

The April 12 inaugural event was all about these cures, said ebullient executive director Rebecca Russell, who described LLS work as 'relentless for cures. We're shameless until we get a cure and we don't apologize. Seventy-eight cents of every dollar we raise goes to research. '

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