For the last 15 years, I have raised money for Next Generation Choices Foundation, otherwise known as Less Cancer, a public charity 501c3 created on behalf of, and for, the benefit of the public. I felt an urgency to do more than call attention to what was flawed, and instead have devoted these last years to collaborating with the best and the brightest experts developing solutions to protect the public. My response to the founding of the organization was not just to protect my children, but all of our children and generations to come.
Being a fundraiser isn’t sexy. At some point, friends turn the other direction when they see you walking towards them at parties, and emails that used to be answered immediately suddenly go unchecked. In 2004 raising money for “cancer prevention” was not only tricky but more accurately people had not heard of “preventing cancer.” The notion was unheard of and not understood by the general public, often being confused for a typo. At the time we often heard “beat” or “cure” cancer but never prevent.
Why take on something as big as cancer? A few things were in play at the time, including the loss of my mother, my sister, and close friends — all to cancer. I had heard stories of successful treatments, stories of hope, but none of those stories would apply to the people I knew and loved. These stories were never for my friends and family, and no one more than me wanted these treatments to work. Unfortunately, over the years since the founding of the organization, I continued to lose people in my life from cancer.
In addition to the loss, back in 2003 just before we organized our work, there was a commercial scale pesticide application site that had been installed next to my children’s school. Something that would have been a deal breaker for sending my children to the school had it been there when they were enrolled.
At the request of Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s administration, I co-wrote best practices with the help of leading pesticide experts for pesticide drift reduction. Simultaneously, we wrote articles about these issues in newspapers, sharing the evidence-based science on a local, statewide, and national level.
Additionally, we systematically built a group of advisors of leading scientists, health care providers, and public health experts, and we founded the Partnership for Pesticide-Free Play.
As social media came about, we jumped on those opportunities to educate the public. I frequently wrote featured blogs for The Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and other blogs. Additionally, I had initiated statewide cancer prevention days in a variety of states, National Cancer Prevention Day, The National Cancer Prevention Workshop, and the United States Congressional Cancer Prevention Caucus. We also developed media, and web-based campaigns, helped introduce legislation banning indoor tanning for minors in New Hampshire and before that had campaigned to end indoor smoking in Michigan. We also initiated relationships and partnerships with many types of communities and entities including schools, universities, and local, state, and federal governments.
We have had leadership roles in communicating and helping to get attention on everything from Flint, Michigan to the Seacoast Cancer Clusters in New Hampshire.
Today, we are now hearing from leaders, organizations, and agencies that preventing cancer is the best strategy for addressing cancer. Over 50% of cancer is considered preventable, and the fact that we still have increased incidences of cancer suggests we can be doing more to prevent such unnecessary suffering. We absolutely can, and we must.
Less Cancer is a result of responding to what I believed was the proverbial tap on the shoulder. Inspired to create change by the loss of loved ones and the threat of losing even more. For me, there was only one choice, one path.
The choice to do more was not from a place of convenience or a fleeting idea but rather hard work and hustle often juggling more than one job to meet bills helping to support my family.
Today Less Cancer has a critical leadership role in providing continuing medical education for health providers including physicians, nurses and public health professionals with global access of over 55,000 people in over 40 countries and at no cost to the participant if participating in the live streamed workshop that happens each year on Capitol Hill.
I have driven thousands of miles speaking to people including health care providers and medical students where the appeal is to use their education and agency to lead public health efforts in their communities.
So raising money isn’t the only thing I do, but none of the above would have happened without the support of our incredible donors. My point in sharing all of this is if you want change, you have to participate in change, and that’s precisely why so many grassroots donors give to Less Cancer. Our hard work is the cumulative effort of so many people who didn’t know where to start but started anyway with whatever they could give.
The Less Cancer movement is a movement founded on giving voice to those who can no longer be heard and to those who can no longer protect their children. It’s a realistic, results-obsessed movement that identifies and promotes actionable preventative measures to build healthier futures for your children, their children, and beyond. An investment in Less Cancer is an investment in advancing these strategies, and it’s an investment in those who no longer have a voice in the fight against cancer.