Portland One Million Strong Highlights


The day kicked off with flashing lights from a police car leading a parade procession, a snare drum cadence setting the pace. Cheers from a crowd of people dressed in blue and holding rally signs marched through downtown Portland. Roaring engines of light blue concrete and dump trucks followed the marchers until the final destination appeared – Pioneer Courthouse Square.


As the parade broke up, colorectal cancer advocates flooded into an open outdoor area, “Portland’s Living Room,” where tables with information about colorectal cancer, games like “Pop the Polyp,” massage chairs and food trucks lined the perimeter. DJ O.G. One played beats from the stage as the whole area focused on raising awareness about the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and, as the Baker sisters put it, “let people know our story doesn’t have to be other people’s story.”


Coming to Portland

Longtime advocates Michell, LaRisha and Marsha Baker returned home from Call-on Congress several years ago inspired to set up a foundation in memory of their father. The Steve Baker Colon Cancer Alliance (SBCCA) soon formed with a focused goal of helping Oregon families and educating the public about screening so other families didn’t suffer the same loss. The sisters became upset when they learned colorectal cancer is a preventable disease and made it their mission to prevent future deaths.


When the One Million Strong awareness campaign launched in Times Square last March 2013, the idea to host similar events across the country began forming. The introduction of the One Million Strong March this year created the perfect opportunity for local communities to jump on board. A “parade” full of marchers raising awareness of the disease in combination with an educational awareness event became the way for One Million Strong to enter grassroots communities.

And yesterday in Portland, Oregon, the Baker sisters didn’t only take the campaign local – they took it coast-to-coast.


A Perfect Day

We can’t describe yesterday as anything other than perfect. The local planning committee in Oregon made up of survivors, caregivers and friends of those fighting cancer was amazing. Their kindness and compassion infectious. Sponsors and partners of the event were not only eager to participate in the event, but passionate about the cause.


Seeing our survivors and advocates (from Oregon) Tom Foeller and Belle Piazza holding the banner to lead the march made our day. Ironically meeting a marching band from Bozeman High School in Montana (who happened to be playing in the park for another event – Horns for the Homeless) was too good to be true. Especially when they jumped in to be part of the parade without any hesitation when we explained our cause. 


Signs like “I’m marching for my teacher” and “We miss you Daddy” gave us chills. The Portland Trailblazer’s DJ, O.G. One, and Zumba instructors kept our crowd dancing and excited the entire afternoon. Kids (and several adults) loved “Pop the Polyp” balloon game. The tacos and gyros from food trucks were delicious. And when random acrobats showed up to perform stunts and take “strong arm” photos with us, the day felt a little “too good to be true.” 


Doctors wrapped their arms around patients and posed in photos. Survivors drove out of their way to come see what was happening. Partners brought fun games and great educational literature to educate and engage the community. A city full of people got out on a beautiful Portland day and came to learn more about why Pioneer Square had turned “blue” for the day.


Comments like this made the whole event worthwhile:

My doctor keeps telling me I should go get screened but I put it off… maybe I should go get more information on how to do that.

Thank you, Portland

The city may rally around being “weird” – but yesterday we saw a shared commitment to also keep Portland healthy. Thank you to the Baker sisters at SBCCA for bringing One Million Strong to Portland! Thank you to the committee who planned this great event! Thanks to those who came out, to partners and sponsors of the event and everyone who’s joined One Million Strong all across the country. Together, we are strong!




Host a march in YOUR community!

Read more about the Portland event

See photos from the day

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