PORTLAND, Maine - This past weekend, communities across Maine honored lives touched by cancer through Lights of Hope Across America, a national fundraiser for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, ACS CAN volunteers did not gather for the annual Lights of Hope ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where tens of thousands of bags are decorated and adorned with the names of cancer survivors and those lost to this horrible disease. Instead, cancer patients, survivors and caregivers celebrated 10 years of hope at home as part of a larger virtual event, Lights of Hope Across America.
While volunteers engaged in personal fundraising across the state of Maine, several Portland area businesses answered the call to sponsor this virtual ceremony at the Gold Level, including: Bernstein Shur, Bioscience Association of Maine (BioME), Northcross Group, and Sea Bags. The event was also sponsored at the Bronze Level by Portland’s Kerstin Kirchner.
“With donations nationwide dropping sharply due to this pandemic, the organizations’ ability to advocate in support of cancer research funding and enact public policy that provides critical access to care is facing a massive threat,” said Hilary Schneider, director of government relations for ACS CAN in Maine. “We are so grateful for those businesses and community members who came together to support ACS CAN’s lifesaving mission by donating to Lights of Hope Across America”, said Schneider.
ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, works with lawmakers to pass policies that help prevent cancer and ensure those who are diagnosed with the disease have access to the care they need, as well as make cancer research funding a top priority at the state and federal level.
In addition to bringing Lights of Hope Across America home to Maine, nearly 700 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones from all 50 states and nearly every congressional district will dial into calls and log onto virtual meetings this week to ask members of Congress to make the fight against cancer a national priority.
“Cancer hasn’t stopped, so neither have we. Congress must take action to address the needs of cancer patients during and beyond the pandemic,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Emergency funding alone is not enough. We need consistent and significant increases in cancer research and prevention funding to ensure we maximize past investments and continue to make significant progress preventing and treating a disease that is projected to kill more than 600,000 Americans this year.”
In addition to urging lawmakers to boost research and prevention funding, ACS CAN volunteer advocates will also encourage lawmakers to advance legislation that addresses disparities in cancer care and supports more equitable access to cancer clinical trials through the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act (the Act). Named after a Black woman who died from 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. Communities of color and other medically underserved groups continue to have higher cancer rates and are less likely to be diagnosed early or receive optimal treatment compared to other groups.
“Lights of Hope and this year’s virtual lobbying event sends an important message to lawmakers,” said Schneider. “We don’t need to travel to make sure the voices of cancer patients and survivors are heard, or to make a difference in passing lifesaving legislation. I encourage anyone interested in supporting this mission to visit fightcancer.org and become an ACS CAN member today.”