Advocates gather for ACS CAN's 11th Annual Leadership Summit & Lobby Day
More than 450 dedicated ACS CAN volunteers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico representing 373 Congressional districts gathered in Washington, D.C. Sept. 10-13 for the 11th annual ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day (Lobby Day). Over the course of three days, the top two leadership tiers of ACS CAN's national volunteer structure – state lead ambassadors (SLA) and ambassador constituent team (ACT!) leads – along with their staff partners, received skills training, attended issue briefings, took advantage of networking opportunities and met with their representatives in Congress and members of their staffs.
Special honors presented
During the meeting, ACS CAN presented the annual National Distinguished Advocacy Award (NDAA) to Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to acknowledge their longtime support for federal funding for cancer research. Senator Blunt's award was featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The NDAA, ACS CAN's most prestigious advocacy honor for leadership in the fight against cancer, was also presented to Malia Cohen, San Francisco supervisor and Benjamin Cruz, Speaker of the Guam Legislature, both for their work in advancing our mission in tobacco control. Sandi Cassese, an ACS CAN Board officer, received the ACS CAN Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy, ACS CAN's highest national honor for volunteer advocacy.
The following staff and volunteers also received special recognition awards.
- Ruth Parriott, Minnesota, Alan Mills Award
- Ann Vaughn, Virginia, Field Grassroots Professional of the Year
- Eunice Hosteller, Washington, State Lead Ambassador of the Year
- Ellie Beaver, Minnesota, Government Relations Professional of the Year
- Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, Maryland, American Cancer Society Partner of the Year
- Patti Bossert, North Carolina, Regional Professional Award
- Juanita Taylor, North Carolina, ACT! Lead of the Year
- Martha Cox, Colorado, ACT! Lead of the Year
- Kathy Goss, Illinois, ACT! Lead of the Year
- Ian Lock, Wisconsin, Emerging Leader Award
- California volunteers and staff, State Advocacy Team of the Year Award
We also presented our annual award for outstanding service to a volunteer attorney as part of our Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI) program. Now in its ninth year, the JAI recruits lawyers to donate their services in mission-critical areas, providing ACS CAN with legal expertise on issues from protecting patients in clinical trials to understanding the complex regulatory structures that affect access to cancer drugs. The work of the JAI lawyers extends ACS CAN's policy expertise and influence with lawmakers in support of cancer patients in many areas of the law.
This year's JAI award was presented to an attorney for work that takes us back to our roots – tobacco control. Scott Lewis, of the law firm of Anderson & Kreiger, is our counsel in ACS CAN's ongoing lawsuit to compel the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to comply with the Family Smoking Act requirement to direct the placement of graphic warning labels on all cigarette packages and advertisements. As the lead counsel in the case, Lewis has donated countless hours of this time, energy and thoughtful expertise.
Coaches rally advocates for Capitol Hill meetings
Lobby Day itself kicked off on Sept. 12 with a rally featuring four members of the Coaches vs. Cancer, nationwide collaboration between the Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches that empowers coaches, teams and communities to help save more lives from cancer. Coaches in attendance were Coach John Gallagher of the University of Hartford, Coach Jeff Jones of Old Dominion University, Coach Jack Murphy of Northern Arizona University, and Coach Josh Pastner of Georgia Tech University.
In their remarks, each coach accentuated the uniquely powerful influence cancer advocates possess and each shared their personal cancer stories and committed to joining us to advance the interests of all cancer patients, survivors, and their families.
Following the coaches send-off, ACS CAN advocates departed for Capitol Hill where they participated in 473 meetings (including every Senate office and 85 percent of House offices). Nearly half of the meetings – 228 to be exact – were conducted face-to-face with members of Congress themselves. Advocates urged lawmakers to boost research funding and advance legislation that supports patients' quality of life by increasing access to palliative or supportive care, which can be provided at any age or stage of illness. They also called on their representatives to close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine screening colonoscopy.
HOPE shines light on lives touched by cancer
After a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill, volunteers and staff gathered at the Lincoln Memorial where nearly 25,000 Lights of Hope – the most in the event's seven-year history – illuminated the reflecting pool to honor cancer survivors and caregivers and in memory of loved ones lost to the disease.
The Lights of Hope ceremony inspires all of us to carry on the fight. Dedicated volunteers and staff collected nearly $234,000 toward Lights of HOPE – a $22,000 increase over last year which was combined with a $150,000 gift made by the Celgene Corporation, as the event's corporate sponsor.
Two members of Congress, Rep. Brian Higgin (NY-26) and Rep. Rick Nolan (MN-6), each made remarks and assured the volunteers that their voices were heard.Attendees also heard the moving personal story of ACS CAN volunteer, Alicia Cook, who credited her status as a two-time breast cancer survivor to the advanced treatment option made possible through a clinical trial. Her older sister was not as fortunate and lost her own battle with breast cancer.
Wednesday's keynote speaker was the legendary E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg, a prostate cancer survivor, who was featured in The Hill for bringing his call for increased research funding to Washington, D.C.
In closing the program, Weinberg praised our advocates for their unwavering commitment and shared his personal cancer story with uncommon candor. His daughter, Ali, who carriers the BRCA1 mutation, joined her father on stage to answer questions from volunteers.
PHOTOS: In the large image you can see Lights of Hope lining the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial. Pictured in the smaller photo is Sandi Cassese, an ACS CAN Board officer, who received this year's ACS CAN Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy.