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Candlelight Vigil Rekindles Enthusiasm of ‘The March’

Candlelight Vigil Rekindles Enthusiasm of ‘The March’

WASHINGTON—Cancer survivors, their families, and friends gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for “Rays of Hope,” a candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of The March. That event brought tens of thousands to Washington last September to a rally aimed at making cancer the nation’s leading research priority.

Although this year’s crowd was smaller—5,000 or so—the enthusiasm and rhetoric were just as strong, as speaker after speaker emphasized the need for citizen involvement in increasing funds for cancer research and access to quality cancer care.

ABC television personality Sam Donaldson, the evening’s emcee, hit the theme immediately. “You cannot tell me that the mind that invented ways to keep from being eaten by the saber tooth tiger and discovered the wheel cannot now invent the way to cure cancer,” he said. “But it takes determination, and it takes money.”

Sidney Kimmel, founder of the Jones Apparel Group and the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research, urged the 60 million Americans “touched by cancer” to make increased research funding an issue in the upcoming presidential election.

“Gore, Bradley, and Bush, and the other presidential candidates, are touring our country, supposedly listening to Americans and defining their campaign positions,” he said. “Make them listen to our needs for cancer research funding. When they come to your city, ask them the question: Will they support $10 billion in annual funding for cancer research now?”

National Cancer Institute director

Richard D. Klausner, MD, evoked a new era of cancer research and what added funding could bring. “As we enter a new millennium, we can truly say that change is imminent,” he said. “The revolution in molecular biology and genetics, along with the emergence of powerful new technologies, are allowing us—for the first time in human history—to see the centers of cells that go awry in cancer, to explain how tumor cells behave, and to understand how this abnormal cell can prosper.”

But clearly the crowd favorite was Queen Noor of Jordan (see photograph), whose husband, King Hussein, died of lymphoma. “You can promote awareness and cooperation, political action and scientific progress that can have an impact on health care, not only here in the United States for Americans, but for people around the world,” she said.

Prior to the vigil, people had an opportunity to visit an exhibit area, which included sections from the Children’s Cancer Quilt. With many sections on display in communities across the country, there were fewer sections than were displayed at The March, but they were no less moving. Each handmade panel honored a youngster felled by cancer: “Remember the Laughter. Molly Elizabeth Koss, 9/19/92-3/2/98”; “Laurie Blahnik, 10/20/70-12/28/79. Lymphoma”; “Ricky Blahnik, 8/18/69-2/22/77. Brain tumor.”

At the education tent, nearly a score of organizations—including the Lymphoma Research Foundation, Leukemia Society, National Breast Cancer Coalition, and Colon Cancer Alliance, offered information and assistance.

The Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups (CNCCG) debuted its virtual cancer quilt at the vigil. Cancer survivors can have their photograph and their story placed on a website, www.cancerquilt.com. The coalition calls the endeavor “a celebration of and a tribute to the many courageous people who have faced cancer.”

The vigil was sponsored by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), with financial support from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation and two dozen other organizations and corporations. These groups include Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology, Bell Atlantic Mobile, General Motors Corporation, and Genentech BioOncology.

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