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Advocacy Update - Special Edition

'Phenomenal' Leadership Summit & Lobby Day resulted in significant impact.

A message from ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse

One word to explain the last few days – phenomenal. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers and colleagues went above and beyond to advocate on behalf of everyone impacted by cancer. This week, nearly 700 participants representing all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, and nearly every congressional district participated in our annual Leadership Summit & Lobby Day (LS&LD). As you’ll read below, our events resulted in significant impact through legislative advocacy toward our mission priorities.

My sincerest gratitude goes to all ACS CAN team members who had a hand in these incredible last few days. A big thank you to ACS CAN and ACS Board members, members of the ACS CAN President's Circle, the ACS Executive Team and ACS team members who spent time with us in DC for yet another successful annual event.

As always, I appreciate your support.

Annual Advocacy Honors Presented to Volunteers and Colleagues  

After an awesome display of our volunteer affinity groups at LS&LD Affinity Row (see the @ACSCAN X thread), we kicked off LS&LD with our annual National Advocacy Leadership Awards Dinner. Awards and awardees included:  

Volunteer Award for Excellence in Advocacy (VAEA) – Jacqueline Beale - Maryland 
The highest national volunteer advocacy honor bestowed by ACS CAN.

Dave Woodmansee Award for ExcellenceDana Hopkins, Director of Advocacy Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
In honor of longtime ACS CAN State and Local Campaigns Director David Woodmansee, who passed away in 2019, this award is presented to a team member who has consistently demonstrated outstanding leadership and excellence in the areas of advocacy and public policy.

State Lead Ambassador (SLA) of the Year – Kay Coleman, ACS CAN Board member, California Presented to a lead state volunteer who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in advocating for ACS CAN’s area of cancer-related public policy.

Young Leader Award - Cody Wolf, Idaho
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.

State Advocacy Team of the Year – North Carolina
Presented to combined staff and volunteer teams that have worked together to make a significant impression in cancer-related public policy.

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

  • Adrenne Meyer, Michigan
  • Barbara Behal, Texas
  • Karen Malcolm, Oregon
  • Kim Lindgren, Kentucky

ACS Partner of the YearMaria Cristy, Vice President of Cancer Control and Patient Services, Puerto Rico
Presented to an American Cancer Society team member who collaborates with ACS CAN to advance its mission to reduce the cancer burden through public policy change.

Field Government Relations Professional of the YearEmily Myatt, Regional Government Relations Director
Presented to a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to make a powerful, lasting impression in cancer-related public policy.

Field Grassroots Professional of the Year - Spencer Lyons, California Senior Grassroots Manager.
Presented to an ACS CAN team member whose collaborative efforts further the achievement of advocacy-related mission goals.

National Professional of the YearRachael Eerdmans, Associate Director of Advocacy Volunteer Engagement
Presented to a team member who has made significant contributions to ACS CAN through their cancer advocacy work. 

A complete list of each recipient's accomplishments is available here. Please read through and reach out with a note of congratulations to these outstanding advocates.

Leadership Summit: Preparing for a Successful Hill Day

Maintaining tradition, Monday was spent with volunteer teams to prepare for Tuesday’s Capitol Hill meetings with lawmakers and rehearse our legislative asks. Prior to breakout sessions, our morning program featured warm welcomes and remarks from our ACS CAN Board Chair Maureen Mann and our ACS Board Chair Brian Marlow. I then had the honor of addressing attendees and sharing about the progress we've made together to ensure our work is representative and can impact ALL communities touched by cancer. And I presented ACS's new powerful video that shows our collective work. I then had the pleasure of welcoming U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and former U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R- Missouri) for remarks and an invigorating conversation on why bipartisan support is crucial in saving lives from cancer. 

A midday session featured a inspiring conversation with brilliant research scientists, Dr. Leah Cook, University of Nebraska Medical Center Associate Professor of Pathology and Microbiology and Dr. Alpa Patel, ACS Senior Vice President of Population Science, who discussed the importance of federal research funding for cancer centers and pursuing research through a health equity lens.

Taylor Swift Fans Unite at CAN Opener  

Our CAN Opener event this year was truly a “Cel–ERA-bration” of creativity and fun. Volunteers showed up dressed styled in outfits from their favorite decade or as true Taylor Swift fans to commemorate this year’s theme the, “Cel–ERA-bration Tour.” 

The event raised over $57,000 for ACS CAN’s critical public policy advocacy work, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors. ACS CAN’s Silent Auction also raised over $10,000 for our mission with competitive bids on several items including signed memorabilia, state-themed baskets and homemade jewelry.

Lobby Day: Blue Shirts Bring Cancer Fight to Capitol Hill  

At our Lobby Day send off, Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of ACS and ACS CAN shared how the power of advocacy continues to be the leading force in our work to end cancer as we know it for everyone and celebrated our volunteers. Representatives from Coaches vs. Cancer and the American Cancer Society Women in Sports Council participated in this sendoff to rally advocates before heading to the Hill. We also recognized our three federal recipients of ACS CAN's annual National Distinguished Advocacy Awards (NDAA), the highest national advocacy honor bestowed by ACS CAN to elected officials who have demonstrated tremendous leadership in the fight against cancer.  

U.S. Representative Brian Higgins, (D-NY) has long been a champion for cancer issues. Among his many cancer-related accomplishments, he serves as co-chair of the House Cancer Caucus; a member of the Congressional Colorectal Cancer Caucus; and a member of the Childhood Cancer Caucus. He is a staunch supporter of increased funding for cancer research programs at NCI, and is currently working with ACS CAN on several of our high-priority bills, including his co-sponsorship of both the Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) Screening Coverage Act and The Diversifying Investigations Via Equitable Research Studies for Everyon (DIVERSE) Trials Act

U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) is a consistent champion on cancer advocacy issues and has been instrumental in directing vital resources to cancer research and innovation. In fact, when he held a leadership role on a key subcommittee, the NIH budget increased by 49%. He is also the longest-serving Native American in Congress, and strongly supports increased funding for the Indian Health Service, which does incredible work to address cancer disparities.  

U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL) was recognized for consistently spearheading multiple pieces of legislation to prioritize cancer research and affordable care, especially for those historically underserved through her support of increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). We honored her steadfast leadership of the Nancy Gardner Sewell Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection (MCED) Screening Coverage Act which is named in honor of her mother.

ACS CAN advocates, including patients, survivors and family members, then headed to the Hill donning their signature blue polo shirts. A total of 582 ACS CAN advocates actually participated in meetings with every Senate office and 361 House offices, including 134 member-level meetings and 183 senior staff-level meetings – particularly impressive numbers given how busy Congress is this fall. Volunteers reported back positive and insightful conversations with their lawmakers that yielded increased support for and co-sponsorship of our priority issues.  

Advocates urged their lawmakers to: 

  • Support the highest possible increases for cancer research with $51 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $9.988 billion for cancer research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and $1.5 billion for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H). Also requesting $472.4 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) cancer programs, including $230 million for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
  • Co-sponsor H.R. 2407/S. 2085 the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act.
  • Co-sponsor H.R. 1826/S.2821 the Prostate-Specific Antigen Screening for High-risk Insured Men Act (PSA Screening for HIM Act).

ACS CAN volunteers also attended the House Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on increasing seniors’ access to innovative medical care. See @ACSCAN's X thread to see the impact of our presence!

Lights of Hope 2023  

Our DC-based Lights of Hope walk included nearly 10,000 decorated bags honoring or remembering loved ones impacted by cancer, as well as 53 newly designed 7-ft story columns highlighting one story from each state or territory. Hundreds of advocates and supporters participated in the event at Constitution Gardens on the National Mall, a beautiful complement to the nearly 65,000 Lights of Hope displayed in communities across the country. I highly encourage you to scroll through the many beautiful images shared by volunteers on social media with #LightsofHope.

To date, volunteer fundraising in 2023 is at $910,134 and counting, including over $850,000 from Lights of Hope! Bristol Myers Squibb was once again our Lights of Hope presenting sponsor, and there is still time to support the event before our October 6 fundraising deadline. 

Thank you to every volunteer, colleague and partner who made this moving, impactful event a reality!

Closing Sendoff 

Wednesday morning was an opportunity to reflect on our Hill Day and continue celebrating our volunteers. I announced our seven state NDAA recipients who were honored for their strong leadership in the fight to end cancer as we know it, for everyone:

  • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was recognized for his leadership in preventing tobacco preemption laws in the state of Ohio and proposing to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, State Representatives Tim Moore, Donny Lambeth and Senators Phil Berger, Kevin Corbin and Jim Burgin each received the NDAA for their relentless pursuit of Medicaid expansion, providing 600,000 North Carolinians access to affordable healthcare.

I also presented the award for our Judicial Advocacy Initiative, (JAI) to our Dallas team from K&L Gates, Beth Petronio, Adam Cooper, and Gretchen Mahoney, who led ACS CAN in guiding more than a dozen organizations in filing 3 different amicus briefs, representing millions of people with serious health conditions. Our briefs have provided scientific data on how preventive services – like cancer screenings – save lives and are cost effective. See more on the Braidwood Management v. Becerra ruling that led to their crucial work.

The celebrations then continued as Maureen Mann announced the top Lights of Hope fundraisers, including the top ten fundraisers who collectively raised more than $153,000! Following dedicated time for team campaign planning, we concluded with the witty remarks of cancer survivor Tig Notaro, Emmy and Grammy nominated stand-up comedian, actor, writer, podcaster and radio contributor.

Amplifying Our Advocacy

In conjunction with LS&LD, ACS CAN launched another round of compelling new “Fight Cphoto collageancer: Make Time” ads, as part of our ongoing campaign to highlight many of our legislative asks and to remind lawmakers they have the power to literally make more time by prioritizing cancer. The ads featured advocate and survivor Liza Fues to raise real patient and survivor voices. 

Our social media platforms also showed great amplification, with 1,600 posts, 20,000 engagements, (which is a 60% increase from last year!), 3.2 million accounts reached, totaling an absolute reach of 19.4 million and counting! This is a significant increase of 150% from last year’s Leadership Summit & Lobby Day social media coverage.

Media coverage for Lights of Hope and LS&LD featured volunteers sharing what the event meant to them and highlights of their time in DC. Volunteers participated in 40 interviews on Lobby Day alone through our radio and TV media tour, including several multicultural media outlets serving Spanish-speaking and Black communities. To date, coverage related to our events has been secured in more than 50 media markets. We look forward to seeing additional letters to the editor and post-event articles in volunteers’ local media outlets as a follow-up to their successful lobby day.

See LS&LD in the News

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