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Cancer House of Hope to honor the brave and the fallen with luminaria

Date: 12/3/2008

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD On Dec. 8, the Green will be illuminated by the flickering of hundreds of candles in honor of those who have battled cancer.

At 6 p.m. the Cancer House of Hope will host their annual luminaria fundraiser to comfort those who've lost loved ones and unite those still fighting the disease.

"At the holiday time individuals who've experienced loss need to have some tangible way to remember their loved one," Elizabeth Oleksak, Luminaria Committee member, said. "The lighting of the candle is a symbol of light in intense darkness. For someone who has been gone a long time there's a flicker of remembrance."

Oleksak described the event as "neither somber nor joyful" but as "an event that is sacred because people come together in deep respect and silence."

Cancer House of Hope Executive Director Cheryl Gorski noted that over 1,500 luminary bags were purchased at last year's fundraiser and several hundred people attended to pay tribute to their loved ones.

"This has been an annual event since the [Cancer] House [of Hope] has been open," she explained. "It's an affordable way for people to honor their loved one."

Gorski noted that luminary bags cost $5 each and can be purchased at the Cancer House of Hope, 86 Court St. The bags are also inscribed with the names of those who've lost their battle with cancer or are currently fighting the disease.

"It's a very moving event," Gorski said, adding that the fundraiser also allows increasing awareness of the free services that the Cancer House of Hope provides for patients and their families.

The organization has a location on Court Street and another at 946 Plumtree Rd. in Springfield. The Houses offer services including support groups, counseling, life coaching, yoga, Reiki and other physical and mental health services.

"Cancer really touches everyone," Oleksak said of the abundance of luminary bags placed on the Green each year. "We would be happy there wasn't a need to [have this fundraiser because no one had cancer]."

For more information about the annual luminaria fundraiser contact the Cancer House of Hope at 562-0110 or visit