A favorite tradition at Fight CRC is recognizing individuals who embody the spirit of what it means to be a Fight Colorectal Cancer advocate at the Celebration Dinner. While our community is a strong force with several members giving time and passion, each year several people go above and beyond to advance key pieces of our mission.
This year we awarded the following individuals:
Community Advocate Award
We met John, a stage IV survivor, at the 2016/2017 Ambassador photo shoot. After that weekend – he was on fire! As a Fight CRC Ambassador, John shared his story anywhere and everywhere – from videos and blogs to media interviews and public speaking opportunities. He attended the 2017 Call-on Congress and from there went on to join the Grassroots Action Committee. Through all of his awareness and advocacy, he’s also been a leading voice for Fight CRC fundraising, raising over $20,000 for Fight CRC. He’s so passionate about the cause, he got a custom golf bag made with the Fight CRC logo and used it as he played in the Cologuard Classic with PGA pros earlier this March. Everyone in John’s community – from his family, friends, colleagues and his virtual family – knows he is a Fight CRC advocates through and through. As he loves to declare, “FU cancer” – he has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
Andrew Giusti Memorial Award
María Cecilia Antúnez Walker (Maia)
When the Late Stage MSS-CRC Trial Finder launched last May, it was because of Dr. Tom Marsilje’s brilliant idea and because of the countless hours that his partner in crime, Maia (Cee Cee) Walker, invested into making his dream become a reality. Tom and Maia met on The Colon Club’s message boards and soon became fast friends, virtually. Tom had joined to meet other patients like himself and help them find trials; Maia had joined to help her friend who was fighting CRC and later passed away. With Tom in San Diego and Maia in Argentina, they quickly discovered cancer knows no bounds (and especially a love for cancer research). Maia jumped in to help Tom transform his Excel spreadsheet into a web-based application that more patients could use. This tool served as the starting point for the robust platform Flatiron built last May. Maia worked hand-in-hand with Tom to manually curate the trials, and even after Tom’s passing in Nov. 2017, she has continued to keep the trial finder up-to-date. In March, she traveled to the U.S. to personally train Fight CRC research advocates on the curation process, ensuring her and Tom’s work can be replicated. Since we launched the trial finder in May, close to 10,000 people have visited it and made over 17,000 searches – and this isn’t counting the thousands more who used the earliest tools Tom and Maia developed. Her passion for reach is impacting the world.
Social Influencer Award
Carrie Lynn Gibson, Elsa Gibson & Joy Gibson-DeRamo “The Gibson Sisters”
The #StrongArmSelfie campaign started as a small idea in 2015 and snowballed into a major movement – much in part to a group of sisters who began posting thousands of selfies from Puerto Rico. It was an easy way to show their dad, who was fighting colorectal cancer, he had the support of their community. The sisters found a way to ask anyone and everyone for a selfie – from coaches and employees, friends and even airline stewardesses. They’ve been diligent to post each and every picture, knowing $1 comes directly to Fight CRC each time they do. The campaign didn’t only bring them hope as their dad fought, but now as they keep the fight going in his memory, they’ve not slowed down. They post with the hopes that each “strong arm” will raise awareness, spark a discussion, and ultimately save a life
Legacy of Service
Rep. Charlie Dent
In recognition of his upcoming retirement from Congress in the near future, we recognized Rep. Charlie Dent for his leadership and service to the colorectal cancer community. Many years ago, Rep. Dent began introducing the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act – a bill that’s been re-introduced to Congress several times. He’s worked across the aisle, emphasizing that colorectal cancer is a bipartisan issue, to support the needs of the colorectal cancer community. Rep. Dent has been a leader in co-sponsoring screening bills, supporting research funding and even generating awareness through op-eds and other interviews for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. To Rep. Dent – cancer is personal, he lost his brother-in-law to the disease. We’re honored that he’s worked alongside us as part of our Congressional Committee for many years and we thank him for his years of commitment to this cause.
The Innovation and Impact Award
The Late-Stage MSS-CRC Trial Finder has reached close to 10,000 people in less than a year, and will reach thousands more, thanks to the generosity of Flatiron. This talented team of developers took on Tom Marsilje’s project as part of their annual “hackathon” and transformed his idea into a scalable tool that’s changing the game for clinical trial finders. Their innovation has filled a deep need within the community – one that’s caught the attention of national media outlets and even the National Cancer Institute (NCI). But their innovation isn’t what makes their work so special, it’s their genuine passion too. Even after the hackathon was over, Flatiron has continued to refine, update and advance the tool. It’s for that reason it was our honor to recognize them for their innovation and impact this year.
Who Are The Other Award Winners?
In 13 years, we’ve recognized some incredible people who go above and beyond for the colorectal cancer community. Meet them all here.
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