Dozens on Maui Hike for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Gillian Williams
Gillian Williams
Michelle LeBeau
Michelle LeBeau
Liane Rawlings
Liane Rawlings

By Dan Dennison

WAILEA, MAUI (KHNL)- Through the eyes of a child. Kids have an extraordinary ability to see and handle adversity and even pain in ways grown ups can only imagine.

Meet 3 year old Sarah Grace Garland of Kaneohe. She spent two thirds of her life getting daily chemotherapy to fight acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Last November Sarah Grace finished her treatment.

Mom Cindy Garland says, "My daughter has been in remission for almost 3 years now and she has been off treatment since November and we're very pleased, very blessed."

Sarah and her family were honored guests this weekend at the Hike for Discovery event on Maui. Dozens of people trudged up and down trails across the island for the culmination of four months of training and fund raising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Sarah's mom says the society provided invaluable spiritual and emotional support during Sarah's long and often painful treatments. The society also gives financial support to patients and their families and funds research into finding cures for blood cancers. Each of the weekend's hikers have very personal reasons for helping.

The great view atop Waihee Ridge on Maui is the payoff. 85 hikers each raising at least $3,000 for the fight against blood-borne cancers enjoy the extraordinary beauty and vistas of the valley isle.

Gillian Willams flew over from Oahu to participate. The Nanakuli teacher trudges up Waihee Ridge in honor of her Aunt Maureen who died from Hogkins Lymphoma shortly after Gillian moved to Oahu.

"So in her honor and to all the other families that are struggling to get the treatment for cancer in Hawaii, I decided this would be a great opportunity to raise money for it," Gillian says.

Each hiker has a story and while cooling off in a waterfall in the Makamaole Valley, a loved one or a friend is not far out of mind.

Michelle LeBeau came all the way from St. Louis to honor her grandmother who died of a rare blood cancer. "I feel her here already and she has taken the trip with me," says Michelle.  "She'd be very proud. Something that will keep with both of us forever."

Hike for Discovery has been around for several years on the mainland, but this is its first time in Hawaii.

Liane Rawlings of Oahu got involved to honor 3 friends, 2 of whom died from leukemia. As the oldest local hiker, she says four months of training, and then completing this day's 8 mile plus hike, was worth it. But not as hard as the challenges and obstacles faced by patients and their families.

Rawlings says, "After last night, hearing the mother of Sarah Grace, it's amazing what the society is doing for researching leukemia and I think everyone should get involved if not in this, in something that will make a difference."

The process of discovery: Finding and enjoying new vistas, pushing yourself to new limits, helping loved ones and complete strangers. Truly a hike for discovery.

Most of the $300,000 raised by Hike for Discovery participants stays in Hawaii to help families here. A second Hawaii hike event is already in the works for Kauai in October.