Honored heroes Shamorie and Allison enjoying last year’s Hunt for a Cure

On April 12, Queeny Park will be transformed into a giant hunting ground when the LLS Bunny, along with his helpers, hides a grand total of 60,000 eggs for area kids to find.

At the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s fourth annual Hunt for a Cure, up to 7,000 kids and family members are expected to come take part in the great egg hunt, which will include four age-appropriate trails, says LLS executive director Debbie Kersting. The day is filled with fun activities: First, the LLS Bunny will arrive in style, air-lifted by helicopter, courtesy of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. On each trail, participants have the chance to find a golden egg containing a gift certificate to Macy’s, good for a spring wardrobe. Other attractions include nursery rhymes and characters, face-painting, a petting booth and photo opportunities with the LLS Bunny. “It’s a bright day for the kids who are going through treatment, as well as for their other siblings and families,” Kersting says. “It’s very much a family affair.”

The event is made possible by contributions from many people—from the 55 area senior centers who filled the 60,000 eggs, to UPS carriers who will deliver them and hide them throughout the park, Kersting notes. The funds raised at this ever-growing event will help LLS in its mission of helping patients with blood cancers—both through direct assistance, as well as by funding research and advocating for systemic changes to improve the lives of those dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

“Patients are faced with a tremendous amount of difficulties when they’re presented with this diagnosis,” says Dr. Burton Needles, chairman of oncology at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. “For physicians, our focus is on trying to provide the best medical care, but LLS really helps a patient in navigating the system.” LLS directly helps patients at Mercy and other area hospitals by providing education and resources, funding to help patients achieve affordability, and most important, the knowledge that they’re not alone, Needles says. Those efforts also help patients indirectly: LLS currently is advocating in Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., for cancer patients to have access to the best treatment while making it affordable through oral chemo parity legislation.

“We’re in a transformative moment in the treatment of leukemia and other blood cancers,” adds Dr. John DiPersio, chief of the division of oncology and deputy director of the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine. “The treatment of childhood leukemia has improved the outcomes for kids quite a bit; while on the adult side, the improvements have been less dramatic,” he says. However, recent strides in treatment could mean better outcomes through increased knowledge of each patient’s specific cancer. “Largely due to work done here at Washington University, we now have a dictionary of all the genetic changes that contribute to leukemia,” he says. “It has resulted in greater insight, and I think it will help us design better therapies.” He likens it to a knowledgeable mechanic actually looking under a car’s hood, instead of just guessing why a car isn’t running. “It will tell us who will do well with standard therapy and who will need a transplant—it will tell us which patients will respond to specific treatments.”

DiPersio concludes, “It’s tough business taking care of leukemic patients, but that’s nothing in comparison to having the disease and going through it. When you have something like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that can provide real support for families outside of just giving money for research, it’s such an added benefit.”

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