by Alicia Wainwright
The Lewiston Relay For Life held its second informational meeting on Wednesday, April 25. The topic of the meeting was: "Where does the money go?"
The theme for this year's Lewiston Relay For Life is "Mission Possible." The theme will be used throughout the event from decorating tent sites to when teams take their first lap.
Julie Kumiega of American Cancer Society Family and Patient Services talked numbers to the group. The amount of people in Niagara County diagnosed with cancer on a yearly basis is more than 1,000. About 480 women are diagnosed and 638 men.
Kumiega focused on how the money raised can be brought back to Niagara County. Road to Recovery, set up by the American Cancer Society, provides free transportation for cancer patients to and from treatment. In Niagara County, this program has provided 123 rides for people who were unable to drive themselves.
Mary's Wig & Fitting Room, located in Amherst, is where cancer patients can obtain free wigs or other head coverings in dignity and privacy. In the last year, 104 women were able to obtain a wig.
"We love it. We love giving the wigs out, they smile, it's just a wonderful thing," Kumiega said.
These programs are just a couple examples of how the money fundraised at Relay For Life is used to benefit local cancer patients and caregivers.
Karen Hall, the mission manager here in Western New York, first encountered the ACS in high school when a fellow classmate was diagnosed with prostate cancer. She was a volunteer and "just fell in love with it." More than 10 years later, she has found a career with the American Cancer Society.
Hall spoke with the group about ACS's sister organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top priority. As ACS's advocacy and lobbying affiliate, ACS CAN provides the muscle necessary to bring attention to issues related to research funding, access to quality care, prevention, early detection, and treatment.
On ACS CAN's federal agenda is to protect funding and authorization for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, and the National Colorectal Cancer Control Program. These programs provide free mammograms, pap exams and colorectal screening for people who are uninsured or underinsured.
One major ACS CAN focus on the state level is to ban indoor tanning for teens under the age of 18. Right now, teens can legally tan at the age of 14 with parental consent. Besides pushing the Senate to pass a bill banning teen tanning, ACS CAN is also trying to educate people on the issue.
With all of the misinformation spread around, it is difficult for parents to make an informed decision about whether their child should tan. Ultraviolet rays found in a tanning bed have the same carcinogenic level found in tobacco. This, of course, is a cancer-causing carcinogenic level. "If you wouldn't let your kids smoke, you shouldn't let them use a tanning bed," said Hall.
This is just a small example of what they do at ACS CAN. "We can raise millions, but the government is the highest amount of money being given to research, so that to me means they have to keep going because we can't fund it all," said Ona Sherman, "I love this end of the spectrum when it comes to being a Relay volunteer."
Ann Raderman, from Hope Lodge of Buffalo, was the final speaker of the night. Treatment for cancer can be emotionally and financially overwhelming. Hope Lodge is a facility where patients and their caregivers can stay free of charge while receiving treatment here in Buffalo.
Raderman is a 15-year breast cancer survivor herself and became a caregiver when her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
"The money that you raise for Relay, it stays here in the community," Raderman said.
Hope Lodge is a great example of that.
Hope Lodge of Buffalo is located on Summer Street. There are 15 patient rooms, a kitchen, library, living room, outdoor garden, Internet access, cable and other facilities that offer patients the comforts of home.
Raderman ended by praising everyone at the meeting, "all of these programs would not exist without volunteers like yourselves."
The Lewiston Relay For Life's next informational meeting will be held on May 23, at the Lew-Port Community Resource Center Board Room.