Aiyanna Rodriguez, 9, of Mays Landing, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in July. Since then, she has shown how tough she is, said her mother, Azelea Rodriguez.

After enduring four spinal taps in September, “she couldn’t walk for a week. Her right leg was weak and needed physical therapy,” her mom said. But Aiyanna was soon back to being active.

“We’re blessed she has a strong spirit and will to want to get better,” Rodriguez, 34, said.

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Aiyanna is this year’s beneficiary of the 14th annual Johnnie’s Run charity event, to be held 11:30 a.m. Nov. 25 at Fred and Ethel’s Lantern Light Tavern in Smithville, Galloway Township, said race co-chairman Tom Balmer, of Brigantine. The combination 5K is held each year to provide financial and moral support to families battling children’s illness. It started 14 years ago as a fundraiser for Galloway police Sgt. John Bieniakowski’s son, Johnnie, now 18, who was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed at age 4 with leukemia.

Aiyanna, a fourth-grader at the George L. Hess School in Hamilton Township, is a patient of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She is still in the main treatment phase, and faces weeks of strong drug treatments. She will need about two years of maintenance chemotherapy, said her mom, who works part-time for a behavioral center in Franklinville, Gloucester County.

Her father, Juan Carlos, works for a Burberry Limited distribution center in Vineland. She has a brother, Carlos, 10.

Call 609-226-1002 for more information on Johnnie’s Run, or e-mail

Vineland YMCA honors teen

Nigel Lunsford, 16, of Vineland, is Volunteer of the Year at the YMCA of Vineland. He has volunteered at the Vineland Y for four years, and is a junior honor student at Vineland Senior High School, according to the YMCA.

Lunsford is a big help at community events and was key in getting Camp Merrywood back in shape after recent storms, a YMCA official said.

Technion institute gets boost

Jeff Cosiol, of Margate, is chairman of the Philadelphia board of the American Technion Society, or ATS, which supports the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel. He recently attended a national meeting in Baltimore, where ATS announced a multiyear, half-billion dollar campaign to help the institute continue innovative research.

ATS donors have provided more than $1.74 billion in support for the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology since 1940. For more information, visit

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