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Cancer survivor finds room on her plate to give back

Volunteer-staff partnership crucial to her decision to volunteer

In 2012, Catherine Edmonds was a single mom working full-time and trying to finish her doctorate degree in education when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. 

She remembers vividly the people she met who cleared a path for her to get the treatment and support she needed. Those people armed her with support, knowledge, and resources that made her feel like a woman again. 

Today, Dr. Edmonds, superintendent of Bertie County Schools in North Carolina, spends her free time, what little of it she has, giving back to her community as an American Cancer Society volunteer. She invests her time so that others feel as supported as she did during her cancer journey.

"I benefitted from services at ACS and was able to connect with a research study that helped me continue to exercise while going through treatment," Dr. Edmonds remembers. "I wanted to help support others and give back to my community once I was back on my feet." 

A simple invitation to speak at her local Relay For Life, and a comment that participation had been down, sparked her interest to volunteer. "I knew I was positioned to help as a superintendent for a local school district," she says. "I got the schools back involved and networked with others to broaden the reach into my community."  That was about the time she met Dan Thorpe, executive director in the Southeast Region. Dan and Dr. Edmonds formed an instant bond. 

To describe their partnership, Dr. Edmonds said, "It is best to tell what our partnership is not. I always thought that ACS would have their agenda and tell the volunteer what to do." That is not the case in her relationship with Dan. "We are standing shoulder to shoulder talking about the needs of the community," she explains. "We decide what works for the community and everyone shoulders the responsibility." 

It helps that Dan and Dr. Edmonds have a true passion for their community and the work they do. "He doesn't say no, he says how can we get it done," says Dr. Edmonds.

She encourages others to think of ways they can balance their work and personal life to make time to give back and volunteer in their community. "Whatever you can give – time, money, connections – we can use whatever you have." 

Dr. Edmonds is honest about the time she has to give and that has helped her fulfill her passion to volunteer. "I have to be clear on what I can and can't do," she says. "I do my best to overlap my work life and my volunteer life, so I can fit everything I want to do on my plate." 

Dr. Edmonds recently joined her Area Board and is looking forward to finding more ways to help others in her community.

  • Summit replay, photos, and materials now available

    ​Volunteers can now access replays of sessions from the second and third day of last week's Nationwide Volunteer and Staff Leadership in Dallas.

    Innovation was the theme for the second day of the Summit. Attendees were treated to a bpresentation on the importance of creating a culture of innovation from Julia Paige of Google, director of YouTube Social Impact. Julia spoke to the need for non-profits to implement creative ideas and innovation to grow and succeed as an organization. She showed several examples of how Google has embraced innovation and answered several questions from the audience about how they can use their imagination to come up with new ideas to help expand their message. The session also featured regional examples of innovation.

    The annual Quality of Life Awards luncheon recognized recipients of the Trish Greene and Lane Adams Quality of Life Awards. The awards honor excellence in quality of life research and exemplary cancer care. Barbara Ann Given, University Distinguished Professor and interim associate dean for research, Michigan State University, received the Trish Greene Award for her dedication and pioneering oncological research to improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Six individuals (pictured in the smaller image) were given the Lane Adams Award for their "warm hands of service." Recipients were Diogo Barbosa, patient navigator, Denver, CO; Catherine Gaines, PA-C, Lumberton, NC; Jackie Miller, RN, BSN, OCN, Medford, NJ; Roshani Patel, MD, FACS, Manchester, NH; Amy Roberts, LCSW, Ocala, FLA; and Mandy Samford, cosmetologist, Gilbert, AZ.

    Volunteers were introduced to our new chief financial officer, Rob King, and our vice president of volunteerism, Eustacia Mahoney, who led a discussion and answered questions about measuring impact on our mission. In this session, participants got a sneak peek at draft of the Board of Directors National scorecard. Small group discussions provided an opportunity for Area Board Chairs to discuss how the metrics on the scorecard could be used locally to showcase important Area mission work.

    A session to address the relevance of the ACS in engaging diverse donors within the giving landscape closed out day two. Joe Naylor, vice president of policy, government, and public affairs, Chevron Corporation, presented giving trends for diverse generational and ethnic groups. Participants were encouraged to find relevancy with diverse groups located in their community to help drive donations, volunteerism, and mission impact.

    Day two ended with a fun networking evening. A special game night brought out the competitive nature of each Region, ACS CAN, and Global Headquarters. Jenga, Flip Cup, and a physical game of Tic-Tac-Toe resulted in the awarding of the grand champion to the South Region.

    Regions spent most of the last day of the Summit discussing priorities and building strategic plans. The Summit ended with a message about building integrity from author, speaker, and cancer survivor Mike Dilbeck. Mike rode into the Summit on his bicycle, encouraging the audience to think about the spokes of a bicycle in building integrity. He shared that the spokes of a bicycle needed to be sturdy and solid in order for the wheel of the bike to work properly. Our wheel of integrity needs to be just as solid to succeed.

    The conclusion of the Summit featured 22-year-old cancer survivor Lindsey JonesLindsey shared the story of her diagnosis of a deadly form of cancer that stole her eyesight at age four. (Her speech begins 52 minutes in.) Despite losing her eyesight, Lindsey conquered cancer and is excelling in life – graduating with many honors and dedicating herself to service. She encouraged all attendees to overcome obstacles that are put in front of us and led everyone in the singing of "This Little Light of Mine".

    Materials from the Summit including the key takeaways and calls to action can be found in the 2019 Summit Brand Toolkit Collection. A condensed view of all materials can be found on this 2019 Summit Videos and Materials document, also on Brand Toolkit.

    Pictures from the Summit, including game night, are also available for download and viewing. 


  • At Summit, Regions share examples of innovation

    Watch each Region's video!

    Volunteers and staff attending the 2019 Volunteer and Staff Leadership Summit in Dallas last week were treated to a session on Innovation: What Innovation Means, Why Innovation Matters, and How Innovation Works. The inspirational session featured Julia Paige of Google, director of YouTube Social Impact.

    replay of her conversation with the South Region's Executive Vice President Jeff Fehlis is now available. In addition, attendees were treated to videos developed by each ACS Region to highlight a recent innovation success. Descriptions of each success and a link to their videos are below:

    North Central Region: ResearcHERS

    This spring, North Central Region is launching an exciting campaign called ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer. This program will serve as a research funding initiative that bridges the gap between critical cancer research, and the dollars needed to fund it, by engaging women leaders to fundraise and by encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in science. It is women helping women in the fight against cancer.

    Northeast Region: #ShareYourScreen

    Last March, the Northeast Region launched the Share Your Screen social media campaign in support of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. People were asked to share a photo of their phone screens tagged with #ShareYourScreen to raise awareness of the importance and impact of colorectal screenings. Through the efforts of staff and volunteers across the country, nearly 1,000 posts tagged with #ShareYourScreen were shared, resulting in more than 1.5 million impressions on Twitter alone.

    North Region: Corporate Partnership Opportunities

    When the vice president of Affiliate Operations at Renewal by Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer this past year, the company knew they needed to rally around her to support her in the fight. Renewal by Anderson partnered with ACS and a platform called Frontstream to quickly and nimbly launch "Wear Pink, Save Lives," with their 96 nationwide locations raising more than $207,000 for ACS in honor of their leader.

    Southeast Region: #GoldTogether

    The childhood cancer and Relay For Life communities come together in the grassroots #GoldTogether program, allowing a Relay team at select events to restrict their funds raised to childhood cancer research, support services, and awareness, as well as cancer prevention targeting children. This program has helped drive revenue, raising more than double the national team average for Relay For Life last year.

    South Region: 10,000 Nights of Hope

    In 2018, the CEOs Against Cancer Gulf Coast chapter created a unique campaign benefiting Houston's Hope Lodge, while directly reaching leaders of industries and communities that have not previously engaged with ACS. By focusing on messaging that quantified what a donation to Hope Lodge Houston would mean in terms of tangible impact, e.g., $50 equals one night of lodging, the 10,000 Nights of Hope campaign raised awareness and more than $25,000 for Hope Lodge Houston in its first year.

    West Region: Expanding Partnerships

    The Seattle area's corporate relations and community development teams have recently leveraged and expanded their relationship with a local Seattle tech startup. They grew a relationship with this partner from a $3,000 Making Strides team and $5,000 event sponsor, to a robust relationship incorporating cause marketing, workplace giving, and customized engagement opportunities.

    During breaks in the Summit, attendees were treated to innovations and ideas tables featuring the following: 

    • A preview of the interactive Volunteer Community – coming soon!
    • A review of the Innovation Library and how to access it through staff partners
    • A tour the Catchafire Skills Based Volunteer Recruiting platform
    • Lessons on how to search for Area Board Resources on MySocietySource
    • A primer on how to support ACS CAN and our legislative agendas

  • Social media resources to help you tell the ACS story

    Telling the ACS Story is an integrated effort to educate and equip volunteers and staff with information and resources to share our work and stories about our impact in the fight for a world without cancer. 

    As part of that roll-out, the social media team has developed new resources to help you learn more about our social media strategy, best practices for sharing social content, and social content starting points to help tell the ACS story. 

    Important note! We are not asking or encouraging anyone to open social media accounts. Rather, these resources are designed for volunteers and staff who are already using social media, and want to talk about the American Cancer Society's work on their personal network.

    These resources are posted on the Brand Toolkit:

    • ACS Social Media Tips + Best Practices
      • Learn more about how the American Cancer Society approaches each social media channel to personalize your own approach.
      • Best practices for content by channel, as well as how to's for setting-up notifications to share American Cancer Society content as soon as it's published.
    • ACS Evergreen Social Content Deck
      • Staff should reference this document to share published American Cancer Society, Relay For Life, Coaches vs. Cancer, or Making Strides Against Breast Cancer content on their personal social media channels.
    • Staff and Volunteer Evergreen Content Deck
      • This "mad-libs style" content deck provides social content starting points that help you talk about a range of the American Cancer Society's work from signature events like Relay For Life to programs like Road To Recovery.
      • This content should be personalized on whichever social media channels you use most frequently so that it represents your own voice.

    Use these resources to help highlight our life-saving work and broadcast the message of how we are all attacking cancer from every angle. Thank you!

  • Replays and recap of Summit presentations by Gary Reedy, Len Lichtenfeld, and Rich Wender

    If work kept you from watching Tuesday afternoon's livestream from our Nationwide Staff and Volunteer Summit in Dallas, the replay of the presentations by CEO Gary ReedyLen Lichtenfeld, MD, our acting chief medical officer, and Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer, are now available. (Please note that the replay begins 7 minutes in.) You'll find a recap of their remarks below.

    Also available is the replay featuring the panel discussion on "Reimaging the Volunteer Staff Partnership" with volunteers Kyle PolkeHeddie Sumpter, and Melissa Park, and Shanna Lee, senior volunteer engagement manager at ACS. Also in this segment is the presentation of the 2019 Volunteer Leadership Award. This year's recipients are Diana Diaz, RN, MS, of Tennessee and Heddie Sumpter of Florida. Read more about them here.

    Last, but not least, here is the replay of the final remarks of the evening, outgoing Board Chair Kevin Cullen's summary of the past year, and the introduction of our 2019 Board Chair Dan Heist, CPA. (This replay begins 11:45 minutes in.)

    A recap of ACS leaders' presentations follows:

    Gary announced the great news that we exceeded our 2018 revenue goal, and he gave a big shout out to the Northeast Region volunteers and staff and its EVP Kris Kim "for leading the way." He also gave a personal shout out to Chris Hansen, who is retiring as president of ACS CAN on Feb. 1. "He has been a trusted friend, advisor, and mentor to me, and I have learned so much from being in Chris's presence," Gary said.

    Among other 2018 achievements, Gary cited:

    • Launching the Cancer Control Blueprint and publishing five chapters of it
    • Increasing colorectal cancer screening rates and introducing new colon cancer guidelines that lower the screening age to 45
    • Launching our Mission: HPV Cancer Free campaign
    • Increasing the number of patient rides to treatment by 38%, to 475,000
    • Making great progress toward the 2019 launch of Navigation Tools
    • The onboarding of 7,300 new volunteers 
    • Launching BrightEdge Ventures, our philanthropic impact fund that aims to get treatments to patients more quickly
    • Delivering a balanced budget to the Board for 2019

    Gary said in in 2019 we will create a new strategic plan for 2020-2025. "I want your American Cancer Society to become the Amazon of the non-profit cancer world. . . To be innovators, disruptors, changing the whole landscape of the cancer space. That's the goal and now we have to figure out strategically how we are going to get there," he said.

    Gary also announced the new ACS Cultural Beliefs, which will be rolled out to staff and volunteers later this year. They define how we will work together:

    • Win Together - I work for team ACS and refuse to be divided over differences.
    • Be Aligned - I align with organizational decisions and lead others to do the same.
    • Reach Out  - I consistently collaborate to maximize opportunities, and always act in the best interest of the enterprise.
    • Raise the Bar - I press for excellence, commit to make progress, and demonstrate urgency in all that I do.
    • Create Moments - I strive to create memorable and valued experiences every day.
    • Do It - I take ownership for my goals, deadlines, and for delivering results.

    Gary said he is "really excited about where we are now . . . From this solid foundation, we can accelerate our efforts to make this disease less frightening."

    Next up was Len Lichtenfeld, MD, our acting chief medical officer, who gave an update on the state of cancer and an overview of our Research Department. Delivering good and bad news, he cited the 27% decline in cancer deaths over 25 years, and the worldwide obesity problem expected to cause cancer rates to rise. He said our Intramural Research Department will be applying strategies we learned in tobacco control to combat obesity and inactivity, and improving what we know about physical activity, sedentary behavior, and healthy eating by collecting objective device-based data from 20,000 CPS-3 participants.

    Perhaps the most provocative thing Dr. Len discussed was blood tests that one day may be able to finds cancers that have evaded detection. Finding markers for ovarian, liver, and pancreatic cancers through blood samples have shown very promising early results. "We are not there yet, but it is close to becoming a reality," he said.

    New treatments for metastatic melanoma are keeping patients alive for four, five and six years, and it's too early to tell how long they will live. Have we found a cure? Dr. Len said he doesn't know, "but what I do know is that we have treatments and we have hope, while just a few years ago we had nothing."

    Rich Wender also delivered upbeat news. Smoking is at an all-time low, with smoking rates at 15.5% for adults, 7.9% for adolescents, and 2.1% for middle schoolers. Thanks to a two-year $1.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we will be increasing access to cessation programs for public housing residents. Smoking was banned in and near public housing in the U.S. last summer.

    Thanks to another grant, this one for $3.5 million from Pfizer and secured by the North Region, we will be working to decrease breast cancer inequities by ensuring high-risk women in targeted areas get necessary care, from screening through treatment.

    Rich gave updates on our two current campaigns, Mission: HPV Cancer Free and our colorectal cancer screening campaign 80% in Every Community (previously called 80% by 2018). Ninety-one Federally Qualified Health Centers that received a grant from ACS have seen their HPV screening rates go up an average of 15.8%. Also, 175 clinical leaders and survivors have been trained and are engaged to help lead the HPV campaign. "These volunteers will lead our way to success," he said. Rich also had high praise for the ACS marketing team, noting the huge amount of publicity Mission: HPV Cancer Free has garnered so far. 

    Rich announced that this year's winner of the National Mission: HPV Cancer Free Campaign Award is the South Region. Congratulations! You may remember that the South Region secured an anonymous $4.6 million three-year donation to increase HPV vaccination rates in North Texas. (And, the federal government is giving us $11 million for this campaign!)

    80% in Every Community, like 80% by 2018, will strive to get 80% of age-appropriate Americans screened for colorectal cancer. From 2012 to 2016, screening rate in people 50 to 75 increased by 2%, representing 5.1 million more people screened. The screening rate in the Medicare population, ages 65 - 75, is 78.4%, while the screening rate among those 50 to 55 is just 49%.

    Rich predicted that the next major ACS national campaign will be to reduce lung cancer mortality. 

    A theme we heard repeatedly was the American Cancer Society's commitment to ending health disparities. While ethnic disparities have generally been decreasing, disparities based on socio-economic and educational status are growing. "Tackling the social determinants of health will require different polices and positions and demand engagement of all sectors. We are now on a learning tour to really figure out what our place might be in that journey," Rich said.

    PHOTOS: Pictured in the top photo, from left, CEO Gary Reedy, 2018 ACS Inc. Board Chair Kevin Cullen, MD, and 2019 ACS Inc. Board Chair Dan Heist. In the smaller image, from left, are Kevin Polke, Heddie Sumpter, Shanna Lee, and Melissa Park.

  • It's November and we're so thankful!

    New resources available to help volunteers thank other volunteers 

    November is a time of year when many of us reflect on what we are thankful for. Here at the American Cancer Society, volunteers are at the top of that list. It may not seem like much, but taking a moment to thank volunteers can make a huge impact.

    "It's easy to get lost in the minutia and the work itself, but a simple thank you - be it in-person, over email or in the mail - makes all the difference. It's a thoughtful reminder to stop and think about why you're giving your time, reflect on the impact that you're making, and remember that you're a part of something much bigger than yourself," said Kyle Polke, Gen2End Roundtable co-chair

    We are very pleased to share this new resource, Volunteers Recognizing Volunteers with our volunteer leaders. This one-pager shares some ideas and tips for volunteer-to-volunteer recognition. There are both in-person and virtual ideas included, given that our teams are getting more and more virtual and want to be able to thank everyone!

    There are many other resources available for you on Brand Toolkit, and you can easily find them by searching "NVW" (the acronym for National Volunteer Week).  Some highlights include the new Where to Recognize Volunteers guide and the November Volunteer Thank You Local Toolkit.

    Thank you again for all that YOU do to help further our mission!  We couldn't do what we do without all of the amazing volunteers that support the American Cancer Society each and every day!

  • Our 2017 Annual Report now available on

    Our 2017 Annual Report is now available electronically on This report highlights how we are attacking cancer from every angle, showcases our accomplishments and the diverse communities we serve and partner with to achieve our mission, and details revenue and spending in 2017. The report also demonstrates our comprehensive and important program of work. 

    The Annual Report is an opportunity for ACS to recognize the countless contributions of our volunteers, and community and corporate partners who join with us in our work to lead the fight against cancer. 

    Volunteers and staff are encouraged to take a moment to read the stories about our work in action, as well as review the audited and certified financial information in the Annual Report. It is a great way to appreciate the depth of public commitment we receive each year, as well as better understand the importance and scope of the work we accomplish. The report can be a vital communication tool tell the ACS story and engage both new audiences as well as longtime supporters.

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