Nearly 700 dedicated ACS CAN volunteers and staff from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico representing 397 Congressional districts gathered in Washington, D.C. Sept. 23-26 for the 12th annual ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.
Over the course of four days, the staff and volunteer leadership of ACS CAN's national grassroots structure, including the State Lead Ambassadors (SLA) and Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT!) Leads, along with their staff partners, received skills and issues training, attended grassroots workshops and delivered our priority legislative asks along with their personal cancer experiences to their federal lawmakers.
In addition to planning and executing a diverse series of events, ACS CAN's Advocacy Training team coordinated with national and field staff subject matter experts for an impressive selection of training which featured sessions such as:
- "Advocating for Balanced Pain Policies Amidst the Opioid Epidemic"
- "Expanding Your Influence: A Volunteer's Guide to Branching Out Beyond Friends and Family"
- "Big Changes in Social Media Mean Big Opportunities for Volunteers"
- "Opening Doors Through Community Engagement: How Can We Stand Out in an Age of Activism?"
CAN Opener Enhances Fun and Funding
On Monday evening, after a full day of advocacy training, advocates gathered for the annual CAN Opener, a fundraising dinner that provides volunteers and staff the chance to celebrate the numerous milestones cancer patients and survivors have reached because of grassroots advocacy. The event raised $54,000 through both individual support and corporate sponsorship.
Advocacy Honors Presented
During the meeting, ACS CAN presented the annual National Distinguished Advocacy Award (NDAA) to Representative Nita Lowey (D, NY-17) for being a champion for increased federal funding of cancer research. An NDAA was also presented to Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX-10) to acknowledge his longtime support of our mission and for cosponsoring PCHETA and the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Screening Act. ACS CAN also honored two Virginians, Gov. Ralph Northam and State Senator Emmett Hanger, for their leadership in passing legislation to expand Medicaid in the commonwealth.
The following volunteers and staff also received special recognition awards.
- Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy – Maureen Mann, Board Member
- State Lead Ambassador of the Year – Jacqueline Beale, Maryland
- Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – CJ Heisler, Michigan
- Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – Lorna Hill, Ohio
- Ambassador Constituent Team Lead of the Year – Ashley Watts, Oklahoma
- Emerging Leader Award – Emily Fain, Georgia
- State Advocacy Team of the Year Award – Oklahoma volunteers & staff
- ACS Partner of the Year – Coleen McKinstry, Sr. Manager, Community Development
- Alan Mills Award – Cathy Callaway, Director, State & Local Campaigns
- National Professional of the Year – Brian Rubenstein, Sr. Director, Online and Digital Strategy
- Field Grassroots Professional of the Year – Alyss Patel, Grassroots Manager, Arizona
- Government Relations Professional of the Year – Heather Youmans, Sr. Director, Florida
We also presented our annual award for outstanding service to a volunteer attorney as part of our Judicial Advocacy Initiative (JAI) program. Celebrating its tenth year, the JAI recruits lawyers to donate their services and legal expertise in mission-critical areas.
This year's JAI award was presented to an attorney for work to help address the alarming surge in of e-cigarettes use by children and high school students. Kelly Dunbar of the law firm of WilmerHale, is our counsel in a lawsuit ACS CAN filed against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in partnership with other public health groups. The lawsuit's purpose is to compel the FDA to do its job and reinstate regulations on these harmful products targeted at America's youth.
NCI Director Details Priorities for Cancer Research
Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), shared with advocates his perspective on the importance of federal funding for promising cancer research projects and the future of cancer research. As leader of the nation's premiere cancer research establishment, Dr. Sharpless emphasized NCI's four primary areas of focus – basic science, workforce development, big data and clinical trials. He acknowledged that these four areas are not new for NCI but explained why he believes each can be leveraged to help advance cancer prevention, detection, treatment and cures.
Coaches Rally Advocates for Capitol Hill Meetings
Lobby Day itself kicked off on Sept. 25 with a rally featuring five members of the Coaches vs. Cancer, nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer 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 Steve Donahue of the University of Pennsylvania, Coach John Gallagher of the University of Hartford, Coach Chris Holtmann of Ohio State University, Coach Jeff Jones of Old Dominion University and former Coach P.J. Carlesimo who is now a television and radio broadcaster.
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 send-off, ACS CAN advocates departed for Capitol Hill where they participated in 497 meetings (including all 100 Senate offices and 397 House offices). More than 158 meetings were conducted face-to-face with members of Congress. Advocates urged lawmakers to boost research funding and to close a loophole in Medicare that often results in surprise costs for seniors when a polyp is found during a routine screening colonoscopy. They also pressed their senators to follow the House by passing the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA).
Members and staff enthusiastically received the advocates. Champions and cosponsors of PCHETA willingly agreed to go the extra mile to ask leadership on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to consider PCHETA before the end of the year.
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 more than 33,000 Lights of HOPE – the most in the event's eight history – illuminated the reflecting pool to honor cancer survivors and caregivers and in memory of loved ones lost to the disease.
Dedicated volunteers and staff collected more than $330,000 toward Lights of HOPE – surpassing last year's total by more than $97,000. An additional $150,000 gift was made by the Celgene Corporation, the event's corporate sponsor.
Celgene's Chief Executive Officer, Mark Alles, shared a story about the promise of research and innovation. A cancer survivor named Cherie, after 15 courses of therapy, was losing her battle with multiple myeloma. She bravely fought through incredible odds to gain access to a clinical trial where a new medicine was being studied. Today, approximately six months after this new treatment, Cherie's cancer is in complete remission and she is living a healthy and rewarding life.
Attendees also heard the moving personal story of Maryland volunteer and State Lead Ambassador of the Year, Jacqueline Beale, who credited her status as a two-time breast cancer survivor to advances in early detection – in her case, 3D mammography.
Rep. Ron Young of Ohio attended the celebration as did Rep. Donald Payne of NJ, who addressed the attendees and assumed them that their voices are heard.
Social Media Coverage
On the social media front, to date, volunteers and advocates have shared ACS CAN's hashtag #CancerLobbyDay over 3,200 times on Twitter and Instagram. This activity has generated nearly 10 million impressions. The hashtag #LightsofHope has been shared nearly 600 times with an additional 1.6 million impressions generated.
Impressions are the number of times associated content is displayed on social media. These totals, which do not include Facebook posts, will continue to rise for a period of time after Lobby Day.
ACS CAN Unveils New Website Address
On Monday morning, ACS CAN announced its new website address – fightcancer.org – with a short video that illustrates the reason we made the change. For quite some time, our former website address – acscan.org – was a challenge for many of our stakeholders to pronounce and nearly impossible for the public to commit to memory. In short, the old address undermined our ability to draw visitors to our website. Additionally, the acronym – while brief – did nothing to convey ACS CAN's important legislative and public policy work.
The new website address is not only easier to pronounce and remember, it also more accurately captures the spirit of ACS CAN's advocacy work. We have long desired to move to this address, but it only became available recently. While our website address has changed, our actual website design and the content will remain the same.
Lobby Day Events Draw Media Coverage
Media coverage for 2018 Leadership Summit and Lobby Day has been pouring in from across the country. Dozens of local media outlets are reporting on hometown advocates that took their fight against cancer to the nation's capital.
On the Tuesday morning of Lobby Day, volunteers participated in a radio and TV media tour focused on targeted members of Congress. The 30 interviews that took place as part of the tour resulted in 60 airings with the potential to reach more than 1.3 million listeners in key media markets. We also had two TV crews follow volunteers up to the Hill as part of the tour. Highlights of the tour included stories on Univision,WTNH-TV in Connecticut, and WNDU-TV in Indiana. Coach Chris Holtmann of Ohio State University was also interviewed by Ohio News Network about his participation in Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.In addition to the media tour, regional media advocacy staff have been successfully securing coverage in local outlets across the country including the Garden Island in Hawaii, WIBW radio in Kansas and the Big Horn Radio Network in Wyoming.
As advocates return home, we expect to see many more letters to the editor and post-event articles appearing in their local media outlets, reporting back on their successful visit to Capitol Hill.