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ACS CAN celebrates staff and volunteers with top advocacy awards

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) annual Leadership Summit and Lobby Day began on Sunday with the National Advocacy Leadership Awards dinner in Washington, D.C., where staff and volunteers were recognized for the exceptional work they do throughout the year to make cancer a top national priority.

The 2019 recipients include:


Alan Mills Award - ACS CAN’s highest honor for advocacy staff, recognizes any current staff person who has consistently demonstrated leadership and excellence in the area of advocacy and public policy.

  • Jim Knox, Managing Director, California: Jim has spent his 15-year career with ACS and ACS CAN demonstrating tremendous leadership and excellence in advancing public policy critical to the fight against cancer, including groundbreaking tobacco control work throughout the state of California.

Field Government Relations Professional of the Year - This award recognizes a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to make a powerful, lasting impression in cancer-related public policy.

  • Lynda Barbour, Southern California Government Relations Director: Lynda Barbour was recognized for her vital role in securing significant tobacco control grants that will build ACS CAN’s capacity in diverse and underserved regions of California.

Field Grassroots Professional of the Year - This award is given to an ACS CAN staff member whose collaborative efforts further the achievement of advocacy-related mission goals.

  • Cori Chandler, Rhode Island Grassroots Manager: In addition to motivating Rhode Island volunteers in their successful fundraising efforts, Cori spent the 2019 legislative session at the Rhode Island State House testifying on behalf of policies important to her and to ACS CAN’s mission.

Regional Professional of the Year - This award is presented each year to an exemplary staff member who has made significant contributions to the organization through their cancer advocacy work.

  • Cynthia Serna, Associate Director, Grassroots and Program Integration: Cynthia was recognized for her commitment to supporting the enterprise’s diversity and inclusion efforts, including integrating ACS CAN staff into Employee Engagement Groups (EEGs) and her role as trainer and co-facilitator for the Diversity & Inclusion Competence and Confidence training series.

American Cancer Society Partner of the Year - This award is given to a staff member at the American Cancer Society whose collaborative efforts with the organization’s advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN, further the achievement of advocacy-related mission goals.

  • Ruth Hong, Director, Strategic Partnerships-Volunteer Engagement: Ruth led an 18-month discovery team to identify and address challenges that ACS CAN Grassroots Managers face in volunteer recruitment and onboarding, including designing a new and improved volunteer onboarding process.


Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy (VAEA) - This award is the highest national volunteer advocacy honor bestowed by ACS CAN.

  • George and Brooke Blough, West Virginia: George and Brooke are longtime volunteer leaders at ACS CAN, sharing George’s story as a 29-year, stage 4 ovarian cancer survivor to advance legislation critical to fighting cancer. George was recognized as ACS CAN’s SLA of the year in 2010 and she received the St. George’s Medal from the American Cancer Society in 2013; Brooke was recognized as ACT Lead of the Year in 2014.

State Lead Ambassador (SLA) of the Year - This award is presented to a lead state volunteer who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in advocating for ACS CAN’s area of cancer-related public policy.

  • Michael Holtz, Tennessee: Michael Holtz is an outspoken advocate for cancer-fighting policies in Tennessee and across the country, sharing his personal story as a colorectal cancer survivor to Michael’s story was featured in this year’s Lights of Hope promotional video.

Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT) Lead of the Year - This award is given to a lead congressional district volunteer who has demonstrated remarkable leadership advocating for ACS CAN’s areas of cancer-related public policy.

  • Mario Landera, Florida: Mario frequently attends Relay For Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer committee meetings to raise awareness of ACS CAN legislative priorities and recruit ACS CAN members, in addition to frequently representing ACS CAN with Spanish-speaking local and national media.
  • Pam Manges, Ohio: Pam’s ability to develop strong relationships with her former and current lawmakers and their staff has resulted in co-sponsorship for ACS CAN’s priority federal quality of life and colorectal cancer screening legislation, in addition to her dedication to attending Relays in target districts to collect petitions.
  • Grace Pugh, California: In addition to utilizing her role as a member of the ACS San Gabriel Valley Leadership Council to raise awareness of ACS CAN’s latest news and campaigns, Grace recruited new volunteers and ACS CAN members this year and helped her local Relay For Life achieve CAN Club status.

Emerging Leader Award - This award is presented to a state volunteer who has demonstrated an exciting promise in their start with ACS CAN by taking advantage of new opportunities to advocate for cancer patients.

  • Cindy Vo, Georgia: Cindy elevates her voice as a cancer survivor and child of first-generation Vietnamese refugees to advocate for increased access to health care throughout her state. Her story is among those featured in ACS CAN’s Medicaid Covers US educational campaign.


State Advocacy Team of the Year - This award is presented to combined staff and volunteer teams that have worked together to make a significant impression in cancer-related public policy.

  • Illinois: The ACS CAN Illinois team succeeded in its two-year effort to make Illinois the first Midwestern state to raise the legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21, in addition to securing a significant $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase, which is expected to prevent 28,700 kids from smoking.

Please check the Monthly Advocacy Update this week for more updates on Leadership Summit and Lobby Day.

Top Photo: George and Brooke Blough, recipients of the 2019 Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy.

Small Photo: Ruth Hong, Director, Strategic Partnerships-Volunteer Engagement and recipient of 2019 ACS Partner of the Year Award poses with ACS and ACS CAN CEO Gary Reedy; ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse; ACS CAN Vice President of Advocacy Administration, Training & Operations.

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