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Lighting up the fight against childhood cancer

Gage Staley, 7 (with his mom Krystie Biernaczyk), will flip the switch at the Lagerstrom family’s Lightup 2012 on Saturday evening.  The Fleetwood holiday light display collects donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.               - Boaz Joseph / The Leader
Gage Staley, 7 (with his mom Krystie Biernaczyk), will flip the switch at the Lagerstrom family’s Lightup 2012 on Saturday evening. The Fleetwood holiday light display collects donations for the Canadian Cancer Society.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / The Leader

Gage Staley knows what he wants from Santa this Christmas: A camera.

A bit shy at first with a visitor talking to his mom Krystie in their Clayton Heights home, the seven-year-old becomes interested in a second flash unit going off on his couch during a family portrait session, and he asks how it works.

“He’s so smart, it’s crazy,” say Krystie, relaxing at home after spending the week with her son at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

He is indeed ahead of the curve academically, being in Grade 2 and keeping up with his grades despite being in and out of the hospital, battling cancer, since the age of three.

He’s undergone multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, all sprinkled with increasingly short-lived remissions of Stage III neuroblastoma.

His mother recites the drama over just the past couple of years: Remission, relapse, remission, relapse… and Gage takes one form of medicine or another every day.

Early on, tumours on his spine even resulted in paralysis, and Gage underwent a year of physiotherapy to learn how to walk again following major surgery.

Last summer, while he was doing better, Gage came back beaming from a one-week stay at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Camp Goodtimes.

The camp is a medically supervised recreational facility for children with cancer and their families, located in the mountains north of Maple Ridge.

Krystie beams at what the experience has given Gage.

“Nobody feels different there. Everybody knows what the kids are going through.”

All he talked about when he returned home was how he wanted to become a “Leader in Training” on his next visit, hopefully next summer, Krystie said.

Gage will also give back tonight (Saturday, Dec. 1) at an annual – and bright – Surrey fundraiser for Camp Goodtimes.

He’ll flip a switch and turn on 25,000 Christmas lights at the Lagerstrom family’s Lightup 2012 display.

Dan Lagerstrom“To date, we have raised over $25,000 for (Camp Goodtimes),” says Dan Lagerstrom (left), who has built increasingly elaborate and computer-controlled displays – synchronized to music – since 2005.

Lagerstrom was a mild-mannered townhome owner until he and his wife Cindy, and son Kyle, bought a house in Fleetwood 10 years ago.

“I’m sure this all started because we lived in a townhouse for way too long (10 years),” he writes on his website (http://lightup.ca). “The possibility to decorate outside was just not there. We moved into this house early in 2002, and as soon as we were settled in, the planning began.

“My wife was unaware that I was totally nuts at that point, however, she is very aware now.”

This year, the display (pictured below) is down from the peak of 65,000 lights, Lagerstrom explains, but there’s no visual change given the introduction of much brighter LED lights – which will again grow in numbers next year.

Volunteers and donors for the display for 2012 have included RONA, Tri-Tech Machine, Northstar Signs and Lighting, and Derek Strokon of Sun Life Financial.

Krystie says that any donations are appreciated at the Christmas display, given the lack of awareness of childhood cancers and the disproportionately meagre funding for research and treatment when compared to adult cancers.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s (CCS) website, the CCS is the largest funder of childhood and adolescent cancer research in the charitable sector, contributing 23 per cent of total funding. The B.C. and Yukon division of the CCS contributes more than 40 per cent of that funding through donations from the annual Cops for Cancer fundraiser.

Lightup 2012 at the Lagerstroms begins on Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at 15466 91A Ave. The lights will stay on nightly during the evening hours up until and including New Year’s Eve.

For more information, visit http://lightup.ca. and www.campgoodtimes.org/

Got lights?

If you have a Christmas light display in Surrey or North Delta and want your address published in The Leader’s annual holiday light list, email newsroom@surreyleader.com and provide a brief description of your display, including the dates and hours it will be on.

Please include your name, full address and contact information (Not for publication). Feel free to send photos too.

Lagerstrom light display

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