Congressional Recess: A time to be heard!

A 5-week Congressional recess began this week, with lawmakers returning to their home districts and states until September 8th. vote-buttonEvery August, Members go home to meet with constituents, host town halls, and attend local events like fundraisers. With election season upon us, Members are likely to devote much of this August to campaign events.

For childhood cancer advocates outside of the D.C. beltway, the August recess is a unique opportunity to connect with lawmakers locally.

Here are a few ways you can take action this month:

  • townhallsignCall the nearest district office of your Senators or Representative and ask about their August recess schedule. Find out if there are any town hall meetings or other public events happening in your community this month. If there's a campaign office in your area, contact them separately to find out the Member's campaign schedule.
  • When you call, you can also ask if there are any available openings to meet with your Member directly while they're in town. You may be offered the opportunity to meet with a staff member if the Member's schedule is too busy, and that's a great opportunity, too!
  • newspaper_bwSend a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. August is a great time to contact media because lawmakers are usually paying more attention to the local news while they're in town themselves. Most newspapers have a word limit of about 200 words, and it's important to include your Senators' and/or Representative's name in the letter to get the attention of staff in those offices. Check your newspaper's website or editorial page to find out how to submit letters to the editor.

What should you say if you get a chance to meet with a lawmaker, ask a public question, or write a letter? Here are some tips:

  1. Share your story. Your personal experience with childhood cancer is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. Personalize the issues by sharing a photo of the child you love.
  2. Share the facts: This year alone, nearly 16,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. and cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children in our country. The majority of childhood cancer survivors will face long-term side effects from their treatment, which can include severe disabilities and secondary cancers.
  3. stepup-average5_v2Ask for more funding for childhood cancer research: In the past 10 years, funding of the NCI-supported Children's Oncology Group (COG), which conducts the clinical trials that provide kids with cancer the best hope for a cure and improved therapies, has been cut by 30%, when adjusted for inflation. Ask your lawmakers to support the FY2015 appropriations request of $5.26 billion for the National Cancer Institute.
  4. Ask for support of H.R.2607/S.1251: Find out if your representatives are currently co-sponsors of the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Reauthorization Act (House here, Senate here). If so, please thank them for their support! If not, ask them to sign on. This legislation will help kids with cancer by expanding research, improving state registries, and funding a federal study to examine barriers to developing new therapies.

For more information on the above two requests, see pages 7-9 of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer's Issues and Advocacy Training booklet from this year's Action Day.

And finally, keep us posted -- Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or by email (jkean@childrenscause.org) how and where you're taking action this month. Thank you for stepping up on behalf of children with cancer!