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Virtual reality helps ease pain and anxiety of young cancer patients

For more than two years, the American Cancer Society has been working with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) on an innovative, relevant, and impactful virtual reality (VR) program designed to offer children battling cancer a highly enjoyable escape from the often scary, painful, and anxiety-causing cancer treatment protocols.

Ben Kaplan, senior director, digital products, and Rachel Cannady, strategic director, cancer caregiver support, led this initiative. Working closely with both staff at CHOA and Emory Healthcare, they introduced VR headsets to test the feasibility and efficacy of virtual reality technology being incorporated into pediatric treatment plans. The results have been overwhelmingly positive.

There's been more than 30 years of research behind the science of using VR for pain and anxiety management. Immersing someone in a virtual world decreases pain perception by diverting the brain's attention away from its pain signal-processing regions. 

Virtual reality is now one of many tools that Child Life Specialists use at CHOA to help manage the pain and suffering caused by cancer. Last fall we filmed this video highlighting the kids using the technology and the amazing results we've seen.  

If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to Ben Kaplan and Rachel Cannady

  • New cancer awareness campaign with Simone I. Smith and LL Cool J launches

    On Monday,  April 15, we launched a multimedia campaign called "Beat Cancer Like A Boss."  It is the brainchild of cancer survivor and longtime ACS Ambassador Simone I. Smith, and her husband, rapper LL Cool J. A variety of notable celebrities are volunteering their time, including singer Mary J. Blige, Offset, Jordin Sparks, and Jhené Aiko. 

    Check out our TV ad!

    The campaign got a fabulous boost from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who retweeted LL Cool J's tweet about Beat Cancer Like A Boss. She has more than 77 million followers on Twitter!

    LL Cool J tweeted:  #BeatCancerLikeABoss!!! Ask yourself and those around you: Are you a BOSS? What makes a BOSS? Join @simoneismith, Simone Smith Jewelry and @AmericanCancer to raise awareness and spread the message!! Go to  to learn more! Let’s make this dream a reality!! 

    Ellen retweeted it and included a link to

    Launched during National Minority Health Month, the campaign seeks to build awareness and empower communities to join us in the fight to conquer cancer. Although the gap in the cancer mortality rate between African Americans and Caucasians has narrowed in recent decades, African Americans still bear a disproportionate amount of the cancer burden.

    Promotion includes TV, radio, social media, and digital ads, as well as influencer content to help build awareness and engagement throughout April and beyond. Simone and LL Cool J made a special appearance on local Los Angeles TV show Good Day LA on Friday, April 12, to discuss Simone’s battle with cancer and build excitement around the launch of Beat Cancer Like A Boss.

    The campaign was inspired by Simone’s fight with chondrosarcoma, a rare bone cancer she was diagnosed with in 2004, and encourages millions to face their biggest battles like a boss. Read more about her personal story.

    What can you do? 

    First, visit Here you can learn more about the campaign, watch the TV spot, and check out some celebrity “Bossisms.” Then, and most importantly, you will find a link to create your own “Bossism” by clicking on  

    We encourage everyone to create their own boss meme to post on Facebook and Instagram with the #BeatCancerLikeABoss hash tag. Then, ask your social network to do the same! 

    Between now and May 12, look for our ads on these networks: BET, OWN, and Bravo, and on these shows -- The RealThe TalkWendy Williams, and ET. Ads also will appear on Hulu and You Tube, and air on select radio stations in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

  • Congrats to the winner of our #Fit2BeCancerFree Challenge!

    On Wednesday, CEOs across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico collectively took 1,563,110 steps -- all logged on new Fitbit Versa smartwatches that were mailed to them -- and covered 718 miles in the American Cancer Society CEOs Against Cancer Fit2BeCancerFree Challenge.

    The winner is Wendy Perry, managing director of Merck Puerto Rico, who logged an impressive 138,755 steps. She has been on the Top 5 Fit2BeCancerFree Leaderboard for each of the past two years. As winner, she will get to have dinner with our CEO Gary Reedy, who also participated in the challenge.

    For an impressive social campaign that helped raise awareness about staying active to lower the risk of cancer, in a way that was fun, authentic, and inspirational, Rich Liekweg, CEO of BJC Healthcare and  its president, Trish Lollo, took the title of “Most Socially Active.” Honorable mentions went to Steve O’Loughlin and LHM, Jim Kavanaugh and World Wide Technology, and Janette Marx and Airswift for the personal stories, images, and real-time engagement throughout the workday step challenge.

    The title of “Most Employee Encouragement” went to Warner Baxter, CEO of Ameren Corporation in St Louis. Warner began his day on a treadmill in the main circle drive of the company, making Fit2BeCancerFree a launch day for a month-long employee wellness campaign called “Get Up & Go."

    “Thank you everyone who participated in this fun and meaningful opportunity to inspire active lifestyles in the workplace, raising awareness about the importance of cancer prevention,” said Gary.  “Once again participants raised the bar – walking to work, engaging others, and supporting a workplace culture of health and helping lead the fight against cancer.  They have our deep appreciation.”

    Participants were mailed a new Fitbit Versa smartwatch, with directions for setting up the Movespring app and syncing it to the live leaderboard at

    Check out #Fit2BeCancerFree on Twitter to see how executives across the country participated in the April 10 event.

    This year's challenge will raise approximately $200,000, including the $2,500 registration fee from each of the 44 participants, and an employee donation campaign.

  • Still seeking testers for cool Alexa pilot!

    If you are interested in joining the pilot group, sign up today or contact

    Voice-powered technologies such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are changing the way people shop, drive cars, and even how they receive health information. Studies have suggested that, by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted by voice, which represents an enormous opportunity for the American Cancer Society.  

    ACS will soon begin to engage consumers in this rapidly growing digital channel. In early April, the digital product team, in collaboration with Cancer Control, will launch ACS’s first Amazon Alexa skill. A skill is an app that is enabled on an Alexa device. For ACS, it will initially focus on providing ACS information to commonly asked cancer-related questions.

    The goal of this pilot is to truly understand if and how consumers utilize voice-enabled technologies, specifically in the cancer space. 

    We want your help!  

    We are looking for volunteers to become beta users of our Alexa skill. We’ve built a core set of cancer topics and would love to get feedback from YOU. The pilot will last 1-2 months with an anticipated time commitment of 10-30 minutes per week. Pilot users will be asked to journal their experiences via email.

  • Sessions available to help you tell the ACS story

    ​Do you want to polish your skills in preparation for speaking to the public, potential donors, media, and legislators about the work of the American Cancer Society? 

    The Sharing Our Story workshop is designed to help you craft a personalized response when asked about the work you do in your volunteer role for ACS. The workshop is led by two members of the National Volunteer Training Team in a 90-minute virtual session. The workshop also introduces you to key organizational facts that you can weave into your personal story. 

    The interactive course will provide you with the tools you need to write and deliver a story that conveys how you feel about the mission and work of the ACS. Sessions are available year-round through the Volunteer Learning Center. To register, simply search for Sharing Our Story when logged in. These available training sessions are open for registration now. 

    Thursday, April 25 – 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Eastern Time

    Monday, May 20 – 7  p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time

    Monday, June 10 – 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time

    Saturday, June 15 – noon – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time

    Saturday, July 13 – noon – 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time

    Don't have a Volunteer Learning Center account? Follow these quick steps to set one up.

    If you have any questions, please

  • Our new Hope Lodge in Jackson, MS, is now accepting patients

    On March 28, the South Region proudly celebrated the completion of the Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge in Jackson, MS, which began accepting patients on Feb. 28.

    The 32-room facility includes private guest rooms, each with two beds and a private bathroom. Additionally, four residential-style family kitchens, two dining areas, fitness area, library, and prayer room will offer guests a place of respite during their stay. 

    "We are eternally grateful to our many generous donors and the huge team of supporters who have worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to bring this much-needed resource to our state," said Jerry Host, Hope Lodge campaign chair. 

    Ground was broken on the project in September of 2017.

    The facility is expected to provide nearly 12,000 nights per year to patients and their caregivers, saving them more than $1.5 million a year in lodging costs. Approximately 5,000 trips will be provided to and from treatment from the facility, saving patients nearly $50,000 in transportation costs.  

    To watch the ceremony, visit the Lodge's Facebook page.

  • ACS making an impact in Second Life community

    Second Life is an online 3-D virtual world that is accessed by people around the globe

    Within Second Life, the American Cancer Society serves cancer survivors and caregivers by providing a connection to NCIC via IM chat and a cancer information library by means of We also offer a connection to the Hope Lodge program, Personal Health Manager Kits, and wig requests, as needed.

    Second Life uses the virtual world to form groups of common interest, instant message friends, hold voice conversations, and design/build digital/pixel avatars and environments.

    The American Cancer Society's office within Second Life is called the American Cancer Society Island. There are two reasons people visit the ACS Island — to volunteer and to seek our help. People come from all over the word.

    To connect with cancer patients and caregivers, volunteers host weekly support group meetings on the ACS Island. The support provided is like our real-life support groups that are held in a building or office except conversations are held online via a group IM chat. The private group offers emotional support and a sense of community.

    "I want to say that the caregiver's support group has been a major help to me as a family member in answering some of my questions and in understanding some options my Dad may choose or not choose with tests and treatment. I have realized that some of the funding going towards support groups and spaces for these groups, as well as to research, is super important," said Eva Marie Zeppelin, a Second Life resident. "I have found this group much more helpful as a family member than counselling services paid for by my family's plan, as the group realizes the value of supportive listening and community and doesn't jump to try and put labels on the caregiver's feelings because they have pre-existing anxiety."

    We do so much more! We also host a Relay For Life virtual event, a Making Strides virtual event, and house a memorial garden for avatars to remember loved ones lost. We are supported by 'Mega Events' like the Xmas Expo, Fantasy Faire, Home & Garden Expo, Sci-Fi Expo, and others.

    • Relay For Life: On June 8-9, the Society will hold an online, virtual Relay For Life event for the 15th year. Second Life participants will be able to engage in typical Relay activities and can raise funds for the Society from February through July, just like any other Relay event. The goal for the 2019 Relay For Life of Second Life is to raise $250,000 USD. Currently, the event has raised more than $60,000 this year. Over the last 15 years, this event has raised a total of $3.4 million.
    • Making Strides: On October 30, the Society will hold an online, virtual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. The goal for the 2019 event is to raise $10,000 USD.
    • Memorial Garden: The Memorial Garden on ACS Island is a place where a photo of someone who has lost their life to cancer (avatar or real life) can be placed in a peaceful garden. This provides an opportunity for healing and an opportunity for loved ones to return for eternal memories of their loved ones lost to cancer.

    We are also having a global impact through this virtual community. In 2018, the Fantasy Faire was allowed to restrict all fundraising – $50,000 USD – from their virtual event to be used by the American Cancer Society to help construct the Kenyatta Hope Hostel in Kenya. This marked the first time that a Relay fundraiser was able to be dedicated to such a monumental global initiative. Another $20,000 USD was raised by the Xmas Expo in December 2018 to help fund the Patient Navigator Program at the Kenyatta Hope Hostel.

    This is one example of how we are fighting cancer on all fronts in every community by: helping patients access the services they need, fostering cutting-edge research and breakthroughs, and advocating on behalf of cancer patients.

    If you have any questions, please contact Jeffrey Montegut, senior consultant, virtual community development.

  • CVS Health awards $1.4M in new grants to help 82 more colleges and universities go smoke free

    ACS and Truth Initiative will deliver programs to help students, faculty, and staff develop and execute strategies to help achieve a 100% smoke- and tobacco-free environment

    As part of its commitment to building healthier communities, CVS Health today announced more than $1.4 million in new giving through the CVS Health Foundation to 82 U.S. colleges and universities, helping them to advocate for, adopt, and implement 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies, including limiting the use of e-cigarettes. The new grants, delivered in partnership with the American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative, build upon the three organizations' combined commitment to helping deliver a tobacco-free generation. 

    Spanning 35 states, new grantees include major academic institutions, including Duke University, Dartmouth College, University of Hawaii, Indiana State University, University of New Hampshire, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Grants will also be provided to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Allen University and West Virginia State University; women's colleges, including Bryn Mawr College; and community colleges, including Baltimore City Community College. For a full list of grantees, visit

    The funding will help accelerate and expand the number of campuses across the country that prohibit smoking, e-cigarette, and other tobacco product use. While conventional cigarette smoking among high school students has fallen by almost 50% since 2011, e-cigarette use has surged over the last year, especially among young people. There are 2.8 million young adults aged 18-24 who are current e-cigarette users. The spread of e-cigarettes risks a reversal of the progress made in reducing smoking over the last two decades given that young people who vape are four times more likely to begin smoking cigarettes in the future.

     "A critical goal for us in building healthier communities across the country is reducing tobacco-use, which remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in this country," said Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation. 

    The grants are part of Be The First, CVS Health's five-year, $50 million initiative to deliver the nation's first tobacco-free generation, which is a major program within the company's new $100 million Building Healthier Communities initiative. While the number of U.S. colleges and universities that are smoke- or tobacco-free has doubled since 2012, approximately half of the nearly 5,000 schools across the country still have no comprehensive policy in place.

    With the CVS Health Foundation's support, the American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative programs help students, faculty, and staff develop and execute strategies that are customized to meet the unique needs of each campus, and move the schools toward a 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free environment. Together, the organizations have provided financial and technical support to more than 200 colleges and universities since 2016, helping to clear the air for more than one million students. 

    "While the teen smoking rate has fallen to an all-time low of 4.6 percent, the rapid rise in e-cigarette use threatens to erase this progress given youth who vape are four times more likely to progress to smoking deadly cigarettes " said Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative. "Over the years, we've had great success in working with colleges to go smoke- and tobacco-free. They now play a critical role in also addressing the e-cigarette epidemic as vaping becomes even more prevalent on campuses across the U.S. Together with our partners, we look forward to empowering as many colleges and universities as possible with the information and resources they need to end all tobacco use for good."

    "Cigarettes cause more than 480,000 U.S. deaths annually and are responsible for nearly 29 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.," said Gary Reedy, our CEO. "College is a time when young adults are susceptible to developing or perpetuating an addiction to nicotine and tobacco. This partnership continues to enable us to help reduce tobacco use among college students and therefore reduce the number of people impacted by tobacco-related diseases."

    To see the full list of colleges supported by these grants and for more information on the grant application process, please visit

    About CVS Health

    CVS Health has more than 9,800 retail locations, approximately 1,100 walk-in medical clinics, a pharmacy benefits manager with approximately 93 million plan members, a dedicated senior pharmacy care business serving more than one million patients per year, and a stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. CVS Health also serves an estimated 39 million people through traditional, voluntary, and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including a rapidly expanding Medicare Advantage offering. Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at

    About the CVS Health Foundation

    The CVS Health Foundation is a private charitable organization created by CVS Health that works to build healthier communities, enabling people of all ages to lead healthy, productive lives. The Foundation provides strategic investments to nonprofit partners throughout the U.S. who help increase community-based access to health care for underserved populations, create innovative approaches to chronic disease management, and provide tobacco cessation and youth prevention programming. It also invests in scholarship programs that open the pathways to careers in pharmacy. To learn more about the CVS Health Foundation and its giving, visit

  • ACS SOURCE Program Champion dies in Ethiopian Airlines crash

    Bella Jaboma was known for her compassion for children with cancer

    Bella Jaboma (second from left above), a volunteer leader with the Kenyan civil society organization Hope For Cancer Kids and American Cancer Society Strengthening Organizations for a United response to the Cancer Epidemic (SOURCE) Program Champion, passed away March 10 after Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 crashed shortly after takeoff. Bella was on her way home from a conference in Egypt, where she shared successes and best practices for serving pediatric cancer patients in Kenya.

    Bella volunteered countless hours with Hope For Cancer Kids, providing clinical, psychosocial, and financial support to pediatric cancer patients undergoing treatment at Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital. Her colleagues recall that she was constantly in communication with the young patients, their caregivers, doctors, and the national health insurance fund to ensure every child received quality treatment and care.

    Members of the American Cancer Society’s Global Cancer Control team had the distinct honor of working with Bella through our SOURCE Program, which provides organizational assessment, training, and technical assistance aimed at strengthening nonprofit organizations’ ability to deliver on their mission and improve operational efficiency. As the SOURCE Program Champion for Hope For Cancer Kids, Bella led her organization in setting up the policies, systems and processes, moving the organization forward with stronger programs and more efficiency than it had before. 

    Our team had the pleasure of working with Bella on other projects, including a cancer advocacy workshop co-organized by the Kenyan Network of Cancer Organizations and the American Cancer Society last March. Bella’s enthusiasm was unforgettable. Her contributions were always well articulated and thoughtful, and she always had a clear vision of how to proceed from an idea to implementation.

    “Bella was a force for good within the Kenyan cancer community and the SOURCE Program,” said Sally Cowal, SVP, global cancer control. “Her warm, dedicated spirit will be sorely missed, but I know her legacy of compassion for children with cancer will be felt each and every day.”

    Bella’s gentle, calm spirit, and infectious smile endeared her to pediatric cancer patients, and she treated each patient as if they were members of her own family. Her loss will not only be felt at Hope For Cancer Kids, but within the wider cancer community. Many of Bella’s colleagues have shared their memories of her. We are including them below, so that her memory will continue to live in the years to come.

    • "Bella is a friend I met at SOURCE but she became more than a friend. Yesterday I was talking to an oncologist in in a remote regional hospital. I told her Bella had passed on and she almost collapsed on the other end of the phone. I had introduced her to Bella about a year ago when she was having problems with kids whose parents cannot pay medical bills. She knew of how long Bella spent daily talking to the kids and their caregivers. The doctor could not believe we're mourning someone she knows so well through her work, but had never met in person. Shine on, Bella." - Josephine Sitawa, SOURCE Program Champion, Breast Cancer Kenya
    • "Bella was never loud in meetings. She had a gentle, quiet, calm spirit and the most infectious big smile that made her eyes sparkle. Her passion for nutritional therapy in immune-suppressed patients was so real. She came alive and was very vibrant while discussing nutrition and anything to do with kids. I will never forget her ever-present help when patients were dealing with national health insurance registration. I will miss her greatly." - Elizabeth Mbuthia, SOURCE Program Champion, Women for Cancer Early Detection and Treatment
    • "I am still in the denial phase of mourning. Being a focused and hard-working champion, she always reminded me of assignments I needed to work on, meetings we needed to attend. I had a challenge with my tracker and she helped me with a smile. She was ambitious, hardworking and always smiling." - Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui, SOURCE Program Champion, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA)
    • "The way Bella kept us aware of all H4CK events was amazing. It showed how passionate she was about what she did.  Her compassion for kids with cancer spoke loudly for someone with a quiet and humble spirit. May God raise another champion to continue the cause and keep the fire burning." - Petronilla Maina, SOURCE Champion, Hope Beyond Cancer Trust
    • "Bella was a great advocate for children diagnosed with childhood cancers. She worked tirelessly and gave completely of herself, on a voluntary basis with no salary to ensure every child she came across that had cancer was enrolled into the National Health Insurance Fund and into Kenyatta hospital for treatment. She followed up with the families as if the children were her own to ensure the kids got access to quality treatment and care. A very young girl with the biggest heart in the world." - Jessica Kilonzo, Steps Ahead Consulting (SOURCE Program Implementing Partner)
    • "Bella, you were a charismatic young lady who was dedicated to her work, full of compassion for the children you worked with and their families.  You were stubborn and made sure you got what you wanted for children suffering from cancer; you tirelessly extended your love to them. Bella, you will be missed by many, your smile will forever remain with us. Your legacy lives forever. Rest in peace our dear friend." - Dr. Zipporah Ali, MD, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association

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