What began as a phone call to a friend wanting to help a neighbor resulted in a completely filled gymnasium at St. Luke Parish in Long Valley Saturday night, all to help a teen and his family as they pursue a cure for brain cancer.
While Glenn Lightner, a 13-year-old suffering from anapestic ependymoma grade III brain cancer, is undergoing alternative medicinal treatments in Belgium currently, 230 residents spent a night donating funds to help support his journey overseas.
Tom and MaryAnn MacIntyre, Jenny and Mario Cavallone, Tom and Lauren Hedworth, David Yaskulka, Michelle Barbato, Steven Triant, and Dorene Rettas formed an ad hoc committee some seven weeks ago and created Rally in the Valley, a $50 per person event that would benefit the Lightner family.
The event offered attendees food, drinks, a silent auction, tricky tray and 50/50 in addition to music from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Smile Forever Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization led by Triant, the tricky tray portion of the event was put together by the Long Valley Junior Women’s Club, which canceled its own event, Mayfest, to support the Rally.
“This event and all that’s gone into helping this family,” Tom Hedworth said to the crowd, “should make you feel great about being part of this community.”
Green and white table settings with balloons and decorations adorned the room, as pictures of Glenn Lightner were hung in an entryway and from a basketball hoop.
“When we were creating the logo at the beginning of this,” Cavallone said, “we decided on green, because it stands for healing. What better message is there for this situation?”
Teenage volunteers representing Smile Forever helped keep the tables clean and tableware fresh. All the teens were from Long Valley, including Triant’s daughters Alicia and Marissa. Some of the volunteers were also receiving community service recognition for their upcoming confirmations.
Currently, Lightner is in Belgium receiving injections of protein from his current tumor that will attach to his white blood cells, according to Hedworth. After these treatments conclude, the family will head to southeast Germany where Lightner’s body temperature will be elevated to 107-degrees, turning Glenn’s body into an environment where cancer cannot survive.
“This is the family’s next best hope to give Glenn a long and healthy life,” Hedworth said.
Fundraisers and donations for Glenn Lightner have been plentiful, totaling more than $91,000 before the Rally in the Valley event. To see more coverage from the town’s efforts to help the Lightner family, go here.
Total funds raised from Rally in the Valley surpassed $26,000, Rettas said. "We surpassed our goal by more than 25-percent, a true testament of what a community can do when we band together," Rettas said.
“The outpouring of support, and the this community,” Hedworth said, “makes me want to move back to Long Valley all over again.”