More than a simple light

Posted Oct 5, 2011

As the sun faded and darkness fell, Aaron Smith could see a light shining. It was a simple light, coming from inside a white balloon his son Elijah proudly gripped.

“Seeing what he has gone through, the strength he has shown and the amazing boy he is,” stated Smith. “Seeing that balloon…”

As he paused, collecting his emotions for a moment, it was easy to understand why. It wasn’t just a light Smith saw in the darkness. It was strength. It was survival. It was life.

“It’s more than that,” said Smith. “It signifies everything we have gone through and fought through as a family and mainly him.

“He is much tougher than I could ever imagine. He has taught me more about life than I taught him in his seven years of life.”

It’s been a challenging time for Aaron and Jaimie Smith and their family since 7-year-old Elijah was diagnosed with leukemia almost three years ago. There have been so many ups and downs, hopes and fears, and moments of doubt, all overcome thanks to their faith and strength.

With Elijah still going through treatment but beating the disease, there are now moments of celebration and that is what the Smith family, along with friends and Steelers teammates, did at the Light the Night walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as a part of Team Elijah.

“It’s definitely a celebration,” said Smith. “It’s his special night. He gets so excited for it. It’s all about him and what he has gone through and the strength he has shown and all of the other families.”

About 20 of Smith’s teammates, along with defensive line coach John Mitchell, put on their Team Elijah T-shirts and walked alongside Elijah on the streets by Heinz Field, showing their support and love for him.

“It’s a great night,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “We all love Aaron and the Smith family. I am proud of the way they handled this whole situation with Elijah. We are one big family. We support and help each other out as much as we can. To do this for Elijah and all of those who suffer from leukemia is something we enjoy and has become a tradition here.

“Elijah has done amazing. He is getting close to kicking this thing in the butt. We love him and support him, and doing this is our way of showing that.”

Rookie linebacker Chris Carter just learned of the battle the Smith family has gone through, but he understands how tough that battle is after having lost his young cousin, Brttiana Henderson,i to the disease.

“This hit home for me,” said Carter. “It strikes a chord with me and my family. I will do anything I can to help out the cause because it takes a lot of strength to go through something like that.”

The walk is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with funds going to patient aid and research programs. It’s also an opportunity for those affected by it to know they are not alone in their battle.

“This event means so much,” said Tina Massari, executive director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Western Pennsylvania. “It’s about our patients, their families. It’s a great opportunity for them to come together and celebrate survivorship and remember those lost. It’s so important for people to come out and see everyone together in support of the same cause.  

“Any time you have a celebrity, and the Steelers are about the biggest celebrities Pittsburgh has, associated with your walk it brings a level of excitement. But what is great is the players are all about Elijah. It’s not about them, it’s about Elijah.”

With each step Elijah took during the walk, his smile grew bigger and the light inside the balloon seemed to get brighter by the second.  

“It’s a reality check when they talk about the white survivor balloons,” said Jaimie Smith. “You see him playing football and he is a normal kid like everybody else. Then you see the balloon and you remember what he has gone through and what he continues to go through and how strong he is.

“We see the strength he has and it helps us to get through things. He is used as an example in so many ways by so many people. He is an amazing little boy.”