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Monday, October 17, 2016

Nashua event raises money, awareness for cancer research

By ASHLYN DANIEL-NUBOER
Correspondent

NASHUA - Bright with their orange team shirts, Tom's Troops stayed together as they walked among 400 other people carrying red, white and gold lanterns down Concord Street on Saturday evening.

Tom's Troops held the gold lanterns as a symbol for the loss of a loved one to cancer. ...

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NASHUA - Bright with their orange team shirts, Tom's Troops stayed together as they walked among 400 other people carrying red, white and gold lanterns down Concord Street on Saturday evening.

Tom's Troops held the gold lanterns as a symbol for the loss of a loved one to cancer.

Tom Dwyer was a loving father and mentor to Evan Dwyer, who is now 19, as well as to 21-year-old Lyndsey and LeAnna Hall, who is 24 and recently married. Tom Dwyer also adored his wife, Jane, and the family on Saturday participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night Walk to honor the loved one they had lost.

"There are people everywhere that have been affected by blood cancer," said Louise Popp, deputy executive director of LLS. "Cancer doesn't discriminate."

Tom Dwyer, a Comcast employee, fireman, breeder and member of the conservation commission, had battled myelodysplastic syndromes, a group of bone marrow disorders that results in decreased production of healthy blood cells from bone marrow.

Before his death, Dwyer had wanted to participate in the LLS's Light the Night Walk in Boston. However, Dwyer's doctors did not let him attend due to the high volume of people.

It was a Thursday in February 2014 when Dwyer died surrounded by his loving family at Massachusetts General Hospital.

About six months after Dwyer's death, the family was asked to make a donation in support of Light the Night while shopping at the local Burlington Coat Factory.

"I said (yes) and turned to LeAnna and said, 'This is the walk that Dad wanted to do,' " Jane Dwyer said. "We've been doing
it ever since."

The Dwyer family has since created the team Tom's Troops and has participated in three Light the Night walks. The team was ranked No. 5 within the top 10 fundraisers on Saturday evening, gaining them a designated table to set up water bottles with their team name, take photos and place Tom Dwyer's framed photograph on the table.

"In our chapter of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, we have raised about $1.7 million" within one year, Popp said.

The Light the Night Walk is an annual event that has journeyed to Nashua for = 14 years, raising awareness and funds for blood cancer research. The proceeds from the walk make LLS's mission a reality: "Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families."

By providing patient support services, advocating for lifesaving treatments and funding progressive cancer research, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night events are responsible for taking huge steps within the blood cancer field.

Popp said the organization is "really starting to see the fruits of ... the progress that we're making. Just a few weeks ago, leukemia was the No. 1 killer of kids under the age of 20, which just changed. The incidence rates are the same, but there are more kids surviving."

Unifying the community under the darkness of the night and guided by glowing lanterns, "a separate community was made within a large project," said LLS campaign specialist Rebekka Farquharson.

Red lanterns signifying patient support and finding a cure, white lanterns signifying survivors and the power of research, and gold lanterns signifying the memory of someone lost illuminated the darkening streets of Nashua as mothers, fathers, friends, sisters, brothers and colleagues marched.

Tom's Troops was led by Lyndsey Dwyer as she and a fellow team member held a large homemade banner in one hand and a gold lantern in the other.

Light the Night "is a great event to remember my husband," Jane Dwyer said.