The coaches joined hundreds of cancer patients,survivors and their caregivers and families at a rally on the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s annual summit and lobby day. They represented Coaches vs. Cancer,a collaborative effort between the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the ACS to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
About 600 ACS members met with members of Congress to ask that they make funding for cancer research a priority in next year’s federal budget. The network hopes to double the amount of funding for cancer research.
Last week,the Senate Appropriations Committee subcommittee on Labor,Health and Human Services,and Education,and Related Agencies approved a budget bill that would decrease the 2012 National Institutes of Health budget to $30.5 billion,down $190 million from this year.
Through fundraising initiatives,such as a yearly golf tournament featuring basketball and football coaches from across the country,Coaches vs. Cancer has raised nearly $45 million to support cancer research and education.
The three coaches have more personal connections to the chronic disease that affects millions of people.
Matt Brown,men’s coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City,was joined by his oldest daughter Ally,12,a thyroid cancer survivor. Brown said that through Ally’s experience,he learned about the disease’s enormous impact on patients and their families.
“Because of events like this,we were able to get her the best care possible,” he said. “For us,that was the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,Minnesota.”
Jamie Dixon,men’s coach at the University of Pittsburgh,and Matt Doherty,men’s coach at Southern Methodist University,also spoke about their personal connections with the disease. Dixon’s father is a lung and prostate cancer survivor,and Doherty lost his father to cancer and a grammar school friend to brain cancer.
The rally was held at the end of a week of activism across the country,which also happens to fall on the network’s 10th birthday. The organization,which works mainly on issues in the White House,Congress and state legislatures,has collected “milestones,” stories from cancer survivors,patients,caregivers and volunteers of positive personal experiences made possible by evolving cancer research and posted them on the website. Milestones include completing a triathlon or watching a loved one’s wedding.
John R. Seffrin,CEO of the ACS,said the coaches’ celebrity can bring an increased awareness to a timely issue.
With the percentage of cancer patients decreasing,“we now know that we could have cancer be the first chronic disease brought under control in the 21st century,” Seffrin said. “We have a moral imperative to be here in Washington today.”
“When you’re going through deficit reduction,that’s a process of prioritization,” Christopher W. Hansen,president of the Cancer Action Network,said,“We understand deficit reduction,but we want to make sure that this is a priority. Any disease that kills 570,000 Americans every year is an inherent priority.”
Reach reporter Ariana Stone at [email protected] or 202-326-9865. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.