Revere family raise awareness through Hop for Hope event

Harlukowicz family raise awareness for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at an event called Hop for Hope through the Kimberly Walton Foundation for the eleventh year.

Maggy Messner, News Editor

As snowflakes gently glided across the April night sky, confused Ohioans peered out their windows. But to then seventh grader Ashley Harlukowicz, the frozen crystals meant something much deeper than the strange Ohio weather; she believed they were a sign from her late Aunt Kimmy, who had lost her battle against Leukemia. Earlier that day, her family had put on their annual race and event, a day to reflect and raise awareness about Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other related diseases. 

Leukemia is the 6th most common cause of death for both men and women and a disease that approximately 1.6% of people will develop over their lifetime; everyday 170 Americans are diagnosed with the disease and 67 lose the fight. Combating the loss of a relative, the Harlukowicz family created a charity to help support other local families struggling with the loss of a loved one from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and other blood cancers. Every April, the Kimberly Walton Foundation hosts Hop for Hope, which raises money for families affected by the disease. 

Ashley Harlukowicz, who is now a sophomore at RHS, explained the reason behind starting Hop for Hope.

“This event was started in honor of my aunt, or my mother’s sister, who had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for two years before contracting Leukemia in July 2008. Kim, [who the foundation was named after], always wanted to help people, so being able to have this opportunity to help others is amazing for us,” she said.

After Kimberly passed away in 2009, her family created the Kimberly Walton Foundation in her remembrance. Kimberly’s sister, Michelle Harlukowicz, who is the Executive Director and Founder of the charity, further elaborated on the creation of the event.  

“I started this foundation in 2010 after losing Kim in 2009.  I wanted to keep her inspiration alive and continue to tell her story of how she always wanted to help those who were struggling with the same illnesses that she was battling.  Our original run was actually held on Kim’s birthday, October 1, 2010,” Michelle Harlukowicz said.

Ashley went into further detail about who her aunt was and what legacy she left behind.

“She had the brightest smile, best humor, and the most lovable personality of anyone. She leaves behind the legacy of someone who fought with courage and a strength some will never understand,” Ashley said. 

Ashley explained where the money donated reaches. 

“The Kimberly Walton Foundation has been able to provide those affected by these diseases with basic needs such as money to pay for a utility bill, buying groceries, paying for prescriptions, and so on. We do not raise funds for research, we raise funds for families. Our goals going forward are to continue to raise money for local families who come to us for support,” she said.

Currently, Hop for Hope is the only major event the charity hosts, but they look forward to making the event bigger in the future. Michelle Harlukowicz talks about the future of the event.

“We will continue to have our Hop for Hope race event every April.  We would love to plan an event in the fall around the holidays eventually as Kim always said that the holiday season officially began on her birthday. . . Our goals are to continue to help as many families as we can year after year,” Michelle said. 

Harlukowicz elaborated on the local side, explaining how community members can help out the charity. 

“We are a small family run 501(c)(3) charity organization that supports local families.  We love the idea of local businesses supporting local charities,” Michelle said.

Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is one of the many diseases that affects the lymphatic system, the body’s disease fighting network. Ralf Küppers, a cancer researcher at the Institute of Cell Biology, explained what Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and how it affects a person. 

“Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL) is one of the most frequent lymphomas in the Western world. . .  This lymphoid malignancy involves peripheral lymph nodes and can also affect organs such as liver, lung, and bone marrow,” Küppers said.

The fatality of Hodgkin’s itself has improved over the years, but unfortunately, for many patients their journey with cancer does not end with Hodgkin’s as it can easily spread, evolving into the more fatal Lymphoma and or Leukemia. 

“With the introduction of multi-agent chemotherapy and improved radiation techniques, the prognosis of patients with HL has substantially improved. Depending on stage and clinical risk factors, 65%–90% of patients can be rendered disease-free after five years,” Küppers said.

For more information on the disease and foundation, visit www.kimberlywaltonfoundation.org