Heather Hall, of Sterling Heights, and her sister, Kelli Mattson, organized the Lights of Hope at Mattson’s home in Troy Sept. 12.

Heather Hall, of Sterling Heights, and her sister, Kelli Mattson, organized the Lights of Hope at Mattson’s home in Troy Sept. 12.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Sisters bring hopeful lights home to fight cancer

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 18, 2020

 According to organizers, over 100 bags were lit for cancer survivors at the Troy display.

According to organizers, over 100 bags were lit for cancer survivors at the Troy display.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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STERLING HEIGHTS — COVID-19 might’ve canceled an anticancer event in the nation’s capital, but the virus couldn’t stop the light from shining in Troy, thanks to the work of two sisters.

Sterling Heights resident Heather Hall and her sister, Kelli Mattson, of Troy, are both cancer survivors who worked together on the Lights of Hope project.

Their Lights of Hope was a display that the two made and showcased to the public the evening of Sept. 12 to honor and memorialize the lives of people who have had cancer — both survivors and the deceased. The display was at Mattson’s home in Troy.

Cars were encouraged to drive by, or people could walk to see it — social distancing was encouraged.

Hall, who is the lead volunteer within Michigan’s 9th Congressional District for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said her organization usually organizes Lights of Hope every year in Washington, D.C. But the coronavirus pandemic caused the group to change course.

“The event was canceled in D.C., so they encouraged us to bring it home, bring hope home to the cities,” Hall said. “We just decided that we wanted to do it, if people wanted to do a drive-by.”

Hall said donors could pay $10 to have a decorated luminaria bag be part of the local display. All event proceeds went to ACS CAN, which advocates for federal and state anticancer initiatives.

She said her Troy display raised over $1,400 and had over 100 lit bags, and she said the neighbors have been supportive.

“For me to bring it home was really emotional and impactful,” Hall said. “For my family, it’s so positive.

“They’re really neat bags. People decorate them in memory of, or in honor of, someone who has been impacted by cancer. It’s a really moving display, a really great opportunity to celebrate the lives, and it serves as a reminder that these lives have been impacted.”

According to the organization, an estimated 61,770 Michiganders will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2020.

Hall, 44, said her family is no stranger to the devastating toll cancer can take. She is a three-time survivor, having had bone cancer at age 21, melanoma at age 27 and then breast cancer last year. Mattson had melanoma diagnosed around two years ago. Their father died in 2004 from multiple myeloma.

Mattson said her three kids helped decorate luminarias for the event, and she was glad they could be part of the event this year. She explained that the luminarias are decorated with ribbons and other art.

“They do it all,” Mattson said. “They will write names. They will draw pictures.”

Mattson said the event represents millions of people, and it expresses their hope that, someday, cancer will be history.

“It also kind of shows that, even in the middle of the pandemic, it’s an opportunity to come together as a community,” she said.

Find out more about the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network by visiting www.fightcancer.org.

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