Walking for a cause

When Jeff Gifford began raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society five or six years ago, he couldn't have predicted he would a few years later be a survivor himself. Now, Gifford is a candidate for LLS Man of the Year honors.

Gifford, 47, of Chittenango, an employee of CXTEC in North Syracuse, became involved with LLS's "Light the Night" campaign after the diagnosis of CXTEC founder Bill Pomeroy. Light the Night is a twilight walk, Gifford said. Participants carry lighted balloons -- red for supporters and white for survivors -- for a couple of miles. The event is generally held in mid-September, Gifford said.

"I've always been a sucker for a cause," Gifford said, "but after Bill was diagnosed, it was easy to put a face with the cause."

Then, in October 2006, Gifford was diagnosed with leukemia.

"When I hit this brick wall, people were already there for me," Gifford said. "I am in remission. I am 100 percent leukemia-free. Not everyone has that support system in place. Medical professionals are not always equipped to provide the support and information people need at a time like that."

A man with a plan

The 'Man and Woman of the Year' program consists of a nine-week campaign window, Gifford said, and he's got a committee of about two dozen volunteers making sure he uses every minute to his best advantage.

This Friday, Gifford will kickoff "Four Marathons in Four Days," leaving CXTEC's headquarters on South Bay Road for the first of four 27-mile walks planned for Friday through Monday.

Friday's hike will take him north on Route 11 to Mexico; Saturday's trek begins from P&C Food Market in DeWitt and heads east on Route 5 into the city of Oneida; day three will cover southern Madison County from Hamilton, north to Route 20 and through Morrisville, Eaton and Nelson to Cazenovia, then on Route 92 into Manlius. On Monday, Gifford is finalizing a foot tour of western Onondaga County to encompass the Camillus/Marcellus/Skaneateles communities.

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