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Happy: Recap of Day 3 of 2014 Call-on Congress

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crc-advocates-capitol-hillIt may sound strange that the #1 song on Billboard’s Top 100 this week, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, became the go-to song on our playlist this week at Call-on Congress. But there’s no other way to put it.

Crazy, I know.

Last night a room full of people who’ve faced the “c” word, some of us multiple times, danced in a conga line to the song – a repeat of what happened a few nights prior. A crowd made up of people who represent loved ones that passed away or caregivers of those physically unable to make the trip celebrated in unison.

The reasons to be unhappy were many, yet at the end of the day, many Call-0n Congress advocates acted joyfully. They were happy to have a voice, to serve as advocates and to unite with a community.

Hill Day

colon-cancer-senate-bldgOur final day of Call-on Congress got off to quite a chilly start as we shivered in front of the tall Capitol building for our traditional photo shoot. Carefully climbing the icy steps, we posed as a group for several pictures.

After the picture taking, our groups broke off. Some headed to early morning meetings. Others found a coffee shop in the basement of the Senate or House building and used the down time to practice.

As we headed to our meetings, we reviewed our asks:

  • Support for H.R. 1070, or a companion bill in the Senate
  • Funding for the CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP)
  • Support for colorectal cancer research at the NIH and DoD

Entering congressional offices, we sat down with representatives, senators and staff. For some advocates who come to Call-on Congress year after year, it was like catching up with old friends. For the ‘newbies’ – it was like making friends.

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Although most of the elected officials were on recess this week and working within hometown districts, we faced a unique opportunity: to know the power of the Legislative Assistant (LA).

Encouragement about meeting with staffers from Caitlyn Leach‘s presentation on Day 1 came true as many advocates faced positive meetings with LAs. Advocates sat down with staffers who seemed eager to learn about the cause and open to our ideas and requests. Some received immediate support and encouragement. Others experienced LAs requesting more information and follow-up requests.

Thanks to our Minnesota advocates, we even learned that Rep. Collin Peterson, is a COLORECTAL CANCER SURVIVOR!

Hill Briefing

hill-briefing-cca-fightcrcIn the midst of our advocate meetings on the Hill, Fight Colorectal Cancer and the Colon Cancer Alliance co-hosted a Hill briefing. Several advocates, leaders in the colorectal cancer community and staff members of elected officials attended.

Eric Hargis, the CEO of the Colon Cancer Alliance, provided opening remarks before Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary for Health of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services arrived to talk about the “80 by 2018″ campaign and encourage advocates in the fight. Anjee Davis from Fight Colorectal Cancer awarded Dr. Koh with our FIRST EVER Health Champion Award.

A panel moderated by Mary Doroshenk of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) talked to the group about the importance of awareness and what is happening in colorectal cancer research. Panelists included: Kitt Shapiro, President of Eartha Kitt Productions and daughter of the famous entertainer Eartha Kitt; Dan Dixon, Ph.D., researcher at the University of Kansas Cancer Center and Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE from the Digestive Center for Women.

Celebration Dinner

advocates-celebrationCall-on Congress always concludes with a celebration dinner. Pulling up to the Carlyle Club in Alexandria, Va. and walking the red carpet, past the “private event” sign, advocates felt like rock stars after a long day on the Hill.

We enjoyed appetizers, drinks and great food as a jazz trio serenaded the group. Opening remarks by Anjee and Michael Sola, VP of Operations at Fight CRC, were followed by a presentation of the Andy Giusti Award to Andrea Kramer for her relentless support of medical research and the Lisa Fund.

Then, deviating from her talking points, Nancy Roach surprised the room and asked Anjee to join her at the microphone. Responding with tears in her eyes, Anjee accepted the mission as the new Executive Director of Fight Colorectal Cancer.

With even more reason to celebrate, advocates hit the dance floor, crammed into the photo booth and posed for photos as the party broke out. Making new friends and celebrating with the old, the community came together to celebrate advocacy at it’s finest.

While a cure for colorectal cancer has yet to be discovered and patience for our legislative asks must continue – we’re encouraged after an amazing week at the White House, the National Press Club and on the Hill. Colorectal cancer is a NATIONAL PRIORITY.

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