As senior vice president of Oregon Pacific Bank, Jeff Gusinow understands the importance of planning for the unexpected. What he never anticipated was cancer.

“Totally came out of nowhere,” Gusinow says. “I found a lump under my arm and I just happen to be going in for my physical. I just thought I had strained my arm exercising.”

That was 10 years ago. The diagnosis: follicular lymphoma, the most common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s slow growing, but there is no cure.

“Your first reaction is that you just panic, and you don’t know what to do,” he says.

Gusinow has always been a man focused on doing, not waiting. So, six years ago, he and a colleague started what is now known as Light the Grill, a barbecue fundraiser to support blood cancer research through the local chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. To date, Light the Grill has raised over $125,000—money that is helping to fuel growing research in the field of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Gusinow’s oncologist, Dr. Jeff Sharman, is WVCI’s director of research and a world-renown blood cancer researcher. He says some of the most exciting cancer research has occurred in the last five years with the development of immunotherapy.

“We’re learning that the immune system has some on and off switches, and we’re learning how to manipulate those on and off switches,” Dr. Sharman explains. “And in some cases, we’re seeing what may even be cures in some diseases that were not previously curable.”

Every day, Dr. Sharman says more and more is being learned about how to reprogram and recharge the body’s immune system and target therapies in more effective ways.

“There’s an enormous portfolio of drugs that are coming down the pipeline. I think we have laid the foundation—but really, we’re only just now at the starting point. Which is really why I encourage our patients to consider participating in clinical trials.”

Jeff Gusinow’s dream is that one day there will be a cure for him. Until then, he will continue to “Light the Grill” to support the effort.

“It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction—first of all, to do this and know that I’m doing something,” Gusinow says. “And I’m just amazed by the support from the community. It just feels wonderful that there are people who care.”

This year’s Light the Grill event takes place on Friday, Sept. 9 at Alton Baker Park in Eugene from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.; everyone is invited. Admission is $12 and includes lunch and live music from the Blue Valentines with special guest Bob Cowsill from the 1960’s internationally acclaimed rock band The Cowsills, which the TV show The Partridge Family is based on.

A wide variety of silent auction and raffle items will also be on display, including LASIK eye surgery and follow up treatment, overnight stays at various locations around Oregon, as well as a My Party Bus wine tour, golf packages and gift cards to local businesses.

Get your Light the Grill tickets in advance at Oregon Pacific Bank’s Eugene Trust and Professional Banking Office at 975 Oak Street, Suite 610 in Eugene, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For more information on the event, click here.