On Sept. 15, more than 700 cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones from all 50 states dialed into calls and logged onto virtual meetings to ask members of Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority as part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) Leadership Summit and Lobby Day. The advocates represented nearly every congressional district.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first time ACS CAN hosted its annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day virtually. It followed the Sept. 12 Lights of Hope Across America virtual event, which replaced the annual Lights of Hope ceremony that usually takes place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The Facebook livestream reached an estimated 27,000 people and to date has been viewed more than 16,000 times. Watch a replay here.
The hour-long livestream event featured dozens of stunning Lights of Hope displays in every location you could think of – neighborhood parks, front porches, backyards, driveways, windowsills and even iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Times Square. In all, there were 52,000 decorated bags and the event raised more than $720,000. Bristol Myers Squibb was the presenting sponsor.
"I was so honored to represent ACS CAN and share my display from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a location of such significant meaning to our country and to this event," said ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse.
Here are some key events that took place during the week:
Sunday, September 13
ACS CAN recognized hardworking staff and volunteers for their outstanding work in cancer advocacy. See the full list of 2020 advocacy award recipients.
Tuesday, September 15
ACS CAN’s Lobby Day began with a kick-off event featuring NCAA Division I basketball coaches Jay Wright of Villanova University and Bill Self of the University of Kansas. The coaches rallied advocates before their virtual meetings and calls with lawmakers. The coaches are members of Coaches vs. Cancer®, a nationwide collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches™.
During this year’s Lobby Day, advocates asked their lawmakers to:
- Increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs with at least $44.7 billion (a $3 billion increase) for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Fiscal Year 2021, including $6.9 billion for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and $559 million for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cancer programs
- Advance the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act. Named after the Black American woman from Baltimore who died of cervical cancer and whose cells cultivated during her treatment have been used to develop some of the most important cancer treatments, the Act would help focus on identifying and removing barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from participating in cancer clinical trials.
ACS CAN also honored a select group of lawmakers and others who have made exemplary contributions to fight against cancer. The National Distinguished Advocacy Award, ACS CAN’s most prestigious honor, was presented to U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), as well as Massachusetts State Senator John Keenan and State Representative Danielle Gregoire, and Atlanta City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland. ACS CAN’s Judicial Advocacy Initiative award, which recognizes attorneys who generously donate their services to the cancer fight, was given to Jeffrey B. Dubner of the Democracy Forward Foundation.
The day concluded with a comedy night for the annual CAN Opener fundraiser. Throughout Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, ACS CAN hosted its annual silent auction online. Proceeds from both the CAN Opener and silent auction help ACS CAN further its advocacy work.
Media coverage for both Lights of Hope and Leadership Summit and Lobby Day has maintained a steady drumbeat over the last few months, ramping up throughout the past week leading up to the events. Regional media advocacy staff have secured more than 100 media clips in outlets across the county, and we expect to see additional letters to the editor and post-event articles appear in volunteers’ local media outlets with reports of their successful week.