Highland Mills youth does not go gently into this or any night

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    Highland Mills-Jonathan Mulligan will probably find the pace a little too slow in the coming weeks during the "Light the Night Walks" in Nyack and Bear Mountain State Park. Although only 13, Mulligan has been tested. Yes, both his parents are cops, and that's a test for anyone who has ever looked into a rear view mirror, no less for a son. But five years ago, Mulligan was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. It's a type of cancer that affects about 3,800 children each year. In people with leukemia, bone marrow produces abnormal white cells. At first, the leukemia cells function normally, but in time they crowd out normal white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. This makes it hard for blood to do its work. Although acute lymphocytic leukemia is one of the most curable cancers, it can progress quickly if untreated. But Mulligan has been treated. And his recovery and his resilience have made him the Westchester/Hudson Valley Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's honored patient for the 2004 Light The Night Walk in Orange County. The night is the society's annual two-mile walk that commemorates and celebrates lives that have been touched by blood cancers and supports efforts to find cures for these diseases. This year, the walks will be held on Saturday, Oct. 9, at Nyack Memorial Park and on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Bear Mountain State Park (a walk also was held on Oct. 1 in White Plains). Mulligan is an outgoing and affectionate boy. But when he started acting out and was tired all the time, his mother, Diana, knew something was wrong. He was feverish and had constant stomach pains. It took many visits to doctors before they diagnosed what was wrong: Jonathan Mulligan, all of eight years old, had leukemia. At the time, that felt like a death sentence to his mother. But Mulligan battled and vowed not to let leukemia get him down. "I still did everything I did before I got sick," he said. Thanks to his doctors, Jonathan has been in remission for five years. The Mulligans now feel like they have been given a new life. For Jonathan, that means thinking about the future. He thinks about being an actor. He thinks about being a doctor so he can take care of sick children. He even thinks about being a police officer, like his parents. In other words, he thinks like a kid. It's that kind of hope - and action - that brought him to the attention of the Westchester/Hudson Valley chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The society's mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and to improve the quality of life of the patient and their families. Although the cure rates for these diseases has increased, leukemia remains the number one killer of children under the age of 15, and during the last century, lymphoma was the fastest growing cancer, with new cases increasing more than 70 percent. During the walks this Saturday and next, all participants will carry illuminated balloons, white for survivors and patients and red for supporters. Check-in at all sites begins at 5 p.m. with music, food and refreshments and activities for children. The walks begin at 7 p.m. Individual participants as well as corporate, family and friend teams are encouraged to participate. For more information, or to register, call (914) 949-0084 or visit www.lightthenight.org/wch. The money raised through these fund-raising events supports research, public education, patient aid, community service and professional education. Nearly 80 percent of every dollar raised is used to fulfill this mission. And remember: Jonathan Mulligan will probably find the pace too slow.