As a member of the Alliance for Childhood Cancer, the Children's Cause was proud to help bring to life the 5th Annual Childhood Cancer Action Day on May 17th. Two hundred advocates from around the country attended the event, spending a full day in advocacy training before taking to the Hill in pre-arranged meetings with their Congressmen.
This year's event came at an especially important time, as the Childhood Cancer STAR Act is nearing the critical Committee stage of the legislative process.
The advocates' efforts paid off big-time! The very next day, the STAR Act reached a huge milestone: Over HALF of the House of Representatives had officially signed on as co-sponsors of this life-saving legislation!
One advocate in attendance shared her thoughts with us about the experience, and we want to share them with you.
Stacie Ritter from Pennsylvania is a mom of four, including twin girls who were diagnosed with cancer as toddlers. Stacie attended Action Day with her son Ethan.
The twin survivors were unable to attend this year for the very best reason: they're finishing up their senior year in high school!
Stacie and Ethan were proud to advocate on their behalf. Stacie was moved by remarks made by the Childhood Cancer Caucus chairs, Reps. Michael McCaul and Chris VanHollen.
Stacie and Ethan attended three meetings with Congressional offices and then spent some time dropping off informational materials to other Hill offices. Stacie told every Pennsylvania office: "Between the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State Hershey, and University of Pittsburgh research hospitals, Pennsylvania can be the state that reaches the Moonshot and finds the cure for cancer!"
Stacie, a vocal and engaged advocate around local issues back home, last attended a lobbying event in Washington in 2009. Back then, advocating for the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act, Stacie found herself out-of-place, surrounded by parents whose children had died battling cancer. She wrote to us at the time that it was "a very traumatic day, considering I brought my twin daughters along thinking it would be educational and empowering for them, knowing they can and do make a difference! Instead, they heard story after story from parents whose children had relapsed and died."
"My heart broke for those parents, and I was reminded how fortunate I am to still have my girls with me," Stacie said, reflecting on her experience from seven years ago. "But I left that day feeling that I'd been unable to make a difference regarding survivorship issues. At the time, under those circumstances, I didn't feel like I had a right to 'complain' about late effects issues in a room full of parents who would have given anything to have their child back."
"This year was different," Stacie told us, relieved. "Out of seven families from Pennsylvania, five were telling stories about their children surviving. This was the chance I'd been waiting for, the chance to advocate for a better quality of life.
"Could we have made strides in the last 7 years? Or was it just coincidental?" Stacie wonders. "Maybe it was a little of both. What I do know is this: I now have renewed hope that in another 7 years, the table will be full of survivors -- all coming to DC to say thanks for supporting legislation that made this possible!"