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A woman with a blood cancer is driven to build support for the organization fighting it

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - The major organizers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society silent auction at Pizza Roma in Woodstock on August 7 were, from left: Patty Bauer, Stacy Owen, Mary Rower, and Kristi Lopakka.The "Leukemia and Lymphoma Society" (LLS) is seventy years old this year. As a nonprofit, and the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting blood cancers and supporting blood cancer patients, it has been indispensable to millions of patients and their families. On Wednesday evening, August 7th, a fundraiser for LLS was held at Pizza Roma in the Woodstock neighborhood. The silent auction was hosted by Woodstock resident Mary Rower, who has herself personally benefited from the society.

Eighty-five items were offered for bid, some of them containing baskets of a dozen or more items or multiple gift certificates, all donated by local and regional businesses and individuals. By the end of the night, only a handful of items had not been bid on, and the auction had raised over $6,000.

The auction helped Rower reach her goal of raising $10,000 before the upcoming October 12th when LLS's annual "Light the Night" fundraising event will take place. With the proceeds from the Woodstock auction, and additional donations received, "Mary's Team" only has to raise about $400 more to reach her goal.

"A lot of people are here who know Mary from various aspects of her life," remarked Stacy Owen at the auction. Owen, a former attorney at Markowitz Herbold, where Rower was a paralegal for many years, was one of four main organizers of the auction. Owen, along with Kristi Lopakka, a longtime friend of Rower's and also a former paralegal at Markowitz Herbold, organized the tracking of all the bid items, and guided the process of making sure that high bidders received and paid for the items they had won.

"Patty [Bauer], who is a cancer survivor and cancer support coffee-group friend, was my cheerleader," commented Rower. Bauer set up all of the items in one section of Pizza Roma with the help of Rower's teenage children, Harrison and Anna.

Halfway through the evening, Rower sat – flanked by her children – and read from her written remarks. In part, she said: "Here's a secret that cancer survivors often learn through their experience. Cancer has the capacity to cut through the extraneous and unnecessary trappings of life. It forces one to really prioritize, to get humble, to be authentic; to disavow oneself of ego, to soften and open one's heart. Pride falls off, and love takes over." Rower thanked Pizza Roma for providing the venue for the fundraiser, and John Porter and his Will E. Nilly Band for the lively music. She expressed gratitude to all of the volunteers – friends and family – who made it possible.

As for LLS's annual fundraiser, "Light The Night" is a non-competitive walk on Saturday evening, October 12th, across the Tilikum Crossing Transit Bridge. The walk to celebrate, honor, and remember those touched by cancer is one of 140 across the U.S. and Canada. The LLS motto is "We are taking steps to end cancer. WE LIGHT THE NIGHT."

Because of Rower's level of fundraising, she will enjoy special recognition – including a private tent for herself and her team at Light the Night. Starting in the OMSI parking lot, participants will carry lanterns to Light the Night as they walk across the Tilikum Bridge. Red lanterns indicate participants walking in support of blood cancer patients, yellow lanterns are carried in memory of someone who died of blood cancer, and white lanterns are carried by blood cancer survivors. That citywide event at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will include a fireworks display, music, tributes to special adult and childhood survivors, and booths by local sponsors and supporters.

If you would like to make a donation to Mary's team, or register to become a team member (registration is free), please register for "Mary's Team in Portland" online ahead of time at – registration.lightthenight.org/event – and on the LLS website, you must "create an account" before registering. Those who have joined the team are invited to meet at the Mary's Team tent in the OMSI parking lot at 5 p.m. on October 12th.


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