RALEIGH — Nearly everyone who passed by the Rex Healthcare cafeteria Wednesday stopped at Elie Smiths bake sale. With two tables full of $1 treats, she sometimes raises $700 in a matter of hours.
Smith, who works in physician relations, has managed to get nearly the entire hospital on board with her favorite cause: the Leukemia and Lymphoma Societys annual Light the Night Walk, which will be held Saturday in downtown Raleigh. A few days ahead of the walk, her team at Rex had raised $31,500 for blood cancer research.
That number doesnt come from a big corporate donation. Its largely the result of grass-roots fundraising selling T-shirts and baked treats at lunch or hitting up co-workers, family members and friends for a small donation.
Whats special is how so many people can make a difference, Smith said.
The Light the Night Walks mission hits close to home for Smith, herself a blood cancer survivor. Her diagnosis came shortly after she dropped her daughter off for college at UNC-Wilmington.
I didnt think I was going to see my daughter graduate, she said.
Thanks to a stem cell transplant nearly a decade ago, Smith made it to the ceremony. She relapsed in 2008 but is cancer-free now. She credits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Societys fundraising efforts for her state-of-the-art treatments. I wouldnt be here without research, she said, noting that she wants to give back and help others with the disease.
But as with all cancers, the threats never completely gone.
Once you get diagnosed, you never get over when is it coming back, she said. My next prayer is for grandkids.
Still, telling her cancer story isnt what causes Smith to choke up with emotion. Its talking about the support she has received while raising money. Since she got involved with the Light the Night Walk six years ago, she has organized countless events, wine tastings, hot dog sales and yard sales. Co-workers from the executive office on down are involved, and dozens of them will walk on Saturday.
Smith said the trick to raising thousands of dollars is simple.
My biggest thing is dont be afraid to ask, she said. I really think people are willing to help.
Steve Burris, Rexs chief operating officer, says its hard not to be inspired by Smiths passion for the cause.
Her enthusiasm just doesnt stop, Burris said. Elie has one speed, and its on.