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Excited Advocates: Recap of Day 1 of 2014 Call-on Congress

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colon-cancer-advocates-breakfast-groupIt might sound odd to explain the mood of getting over 80 people from all across the country together to talk about colorectal cancer as exciting – but that’s exactly the word that encapsulates the day.

At the end of Day 1, there’s a sense among all of us that big things lie ahead over the next 48 hours. And that’s not just because tomorrow some of our team will meet at the White House and speak at a National Press Conference… or that Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. will join us and address our advocates personally.

Although those items on tomorrow’s docket are extremely exciting, the overwhelming sense of excitement comes from togetherness. Once again, we’ve gathered in D.C. at the Call-on Congress and realize we’re not alone and we’re ready to cure cancer.

Brief Recap of Today

advocates-colon-cancerThe ballroom at the Hilton in Alexandria, Va. began filling up around noon as the proverbial “Call-on Congress gates” opened. The ‘veterans’ caught up and hugged.

Newbies sat at their tables and reviewed their packets, wrapping their heads around what was about to happen. Some came as survivors. Others as caregivers, friends and those who’ve lost loved ones. This year, young faces filled the room as 16, 21 and 23-year-olds joined their parents to engage in advocacy this year.

To kick things off, interim executive director Anjee Davis welcomed the crowd and introduced our key committees as well as our mission and vision. A recap video of our NYC launch of One Million Strong, our awareness campaign, played and the crowd “hoot and hollered” as they spotted several familiar faces. I even introduced our NEW “social media stops” we’re doing this year to encourage everyone to use social media to spread awareness.

Advocacy, Lobbying & Both

Diving into the programming, Caitlin Leach from Research!America gave a thorough & encouraging presentation on advocacy, lobbying and why both are important, especially for medical research funding. Encouraging attendees who might be meeting with staffers who are “younger than their own kids,” she reminded our advocates that this is a critical week for us. Federally-funded research is imperative. Advocacy is imperative. It’s time we engage with our elected officials – even their staff – and share with them what’s happening.

View Caitlin’s presentation slides

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Following Caitlin’s presentation, Kim Ryan, our director of patient information services, led a panel of two members from our Medical Advisory Board (MAB), Heather Hampel and Dr. John Marshall. Both offered insight into the medical world of colorectal cancer.

Heather brought to light the importance of knowing about inherited syndromes impacting colorectal cancer and some details involved in genetic counseling. With a passion for Lynch Syndrome, she explained that 1 in every 35 colorectal patients have Lynch Syndrome, and the importance of getting tested.

View Heather’s presentation slides

Dr. John Marshall gave a great presentation that hammered home the idea that we need to say we’re after a CURE for colorectal cancer again. Peppered into a presentation of solid data explaining the current state of treating colorectal cancer, Dr. Marshall offered humorous side-remarks such as the “scratch-and-sniff brown ribbon” for awareness and ideas to counter “Breast Cancer Nation” to get awareness and support of ALL cancers.

View Dr. Marshall’s presentation slides

David Wright, a survivor and extremely involved advocate from South Carolina, encouraged attendees to be all-stars. He shared his personal story of colorectal cancer, as well as his daughter’s – a survivor diagnosed in her late 20′s. David set the example of the power of sharing a story. Then, it was our attendees’ turn to practice.

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A microphone was passed around the room as each attendee stood up to briefly share their names, hometown and why they came to advocate. Some teared up. Others told jokes. Others shared brief stories and insights. After each person spoke on the mic, feelings were mutual – we were all glad and honored to be sitting amongst one-another.

After a quick break and shuffle back to the hotel the annual Mix & Mingle loosened the crowd and gave way for more friendships to form. Transitioning into dinner, Nancy Roach awarded  board member and longtime advocate Gordon Cole with the Community Advocate of the Year award – a well-deserved honor for a man who’s devoted himself to research, education, advocacy and helping others.

Dinner was served – including a great chocolate cake to top it off. Music played as those sitting around the table got to know one another. An improv conga line broke out at one point. And advocates downloaded after a great day of advocacy training.

While some hit the hay, others hit up the hotel bar for fancy BLUE drinks to continue celebrating with one another. With snow flurries coming down outside, advocates hugged, took photos and said “Cheers” to a great day … and to even more exciting things ahead.

More…

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Check out our Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram for pics, info and more from today’s training session!

Follow the hashtag #ConC2014 on any outlet to see what’s happening NOW.

Review the presentations from our speakers

View photos from Call-on Congress

See our agenda & conference details 

Learn how to be an eAdvocate from home this week

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