Australians impacted by blood cancer will light lanterns in their back yards, lounge rooms and hospital wards this Saturday evening as the Leukaemia Foundation's Light the Night event goes virtual.
In pre-pandemic times, hundreds of people in capital cities and regional towns across the nation took part in evening lantern walks for Light the Night.
The event may have been restricted for the second year in a row, but the at-home version gives people the chance to participate, no matter where they live.
Cessnock's Emma Ekert has assembled a local team of family and friends who will light lanterns in memory of her brother Greg Driscoll.
Greg, who lived in Canberra, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2015, and underwent a bone marrow transplant from his and Emma's middle sibling, Matthew.
He spent 12 months in remission and then relapsed, and sadly lost his battle in September 2017, aged 42.
Emma said Greg received a lot of assistance from the Leukaemia Foundation, including accommodation for his wife and newborn baby at the time of his treatment.
Funds raised through Light the Night go towards support for blood cancer patients and their families, and research for faster diagnoses and better treatments.
And during COVID and lockdowns, the 110,000-plus Australians currently battling blood cancer need more support than ever.
During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, the Leukaemia Foundation experienced a massive 30 per cent increase in demand for its services and in the past year has provided over 22,000 support interactions to patients via phone, email, text message, video call and other forms of communication through its Blood Cancer Support Coordinators.
"Whilst we are proud of the support we've provided to people living with blood cancer during the pandemic, if we are to see better health outcomes and reduced mortality rates in coming years, then more support needs to be made available to blood cancer patients now, so they are armed with all the resources and contact they need to fight their diagnosis or live well with it," Leukaemia Foundation CEO Chris Tanti said.
"Registering for Light the Night is a simple way that every Australian can visibly show their support for people living with blood cancer, so that they know we are all standing with them in their fight every day, and especially on their darkest days.
""This year's Light the Night couldn't come at a better time and thanks to the new format involving a virtual lantern lighting ceremony, no matter where you live, or how you've been impacted by blood cancer, everyone has the opportunity to participate and create their own special experience with loved ones as we all rally together to hope for a better future and greater support for those diagnosed with blood cancer."
Having attended the Newcastle event in the past, Emma said she has wanted to organise a Light the Night in Cessnock for quite some time, and she hopes the community will be able to gather and support the event in-person in 2022.
"This year will be a good way to trial it and get the word out, and if restrictions permit, we'll bring the family afternoon event to Cessnock next year," she said.
Stay tuned to the Facebook group 'Light the Night Cessnock' for details of a fundraising raffle, and for information about next year's event.
Anyone is welcome to register, make a lantern at home and join the online ceremony on Saturday evening.
To register or make a donation, visit lightthenight.org.au.