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The March: Will Americans Turn Out in Large Numbers?

The March: Will Americans Turn Out in Large Numbers?

WASHINGTON--Americans want cancer cured. Polls show it. Letters to Congress and newspapers say so, and so do calls to talk shows. But will Americans in large numbers turn out here and in cities across the country to demand greater action against the nation’s second leading killer? That’s the question confronting organizers of "The March: Coming Together to Conquer Cancer," the Sept. 26 event, to be held in Washington and more than 75 cities nationwide, that seeks "to make cancer the Number One national health care priority."

In the final weeks before the event, patterned more after Earth Day activities than any protest parade, organizers labored to ensure a good turnout and to capture the attention of the public, members of Congress, and the media.

"My hope is that the legacy of The March will be that we took a weekend of the country’s time and devoted it to cancer, and by doing that, we energized a new generation of people and reinvig-orated the War on Cancer," Ellen Stovall, executive director of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and president of The March, told Oncology News International.

The three major goals of The March are more federal funding for all cancer research; increased access to quality cancer care for all Americans; and a renewed commitment from all elected officials to conquer cancer. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a prostate cancer survivor, serves as its honorary chair.

Ms. Stovall conceived the idea of The March. Under the prodding of TV host Larry King and two prominent cancer survivors--ABC news personality Sam Donaldson and financier Michael Milken--she announced on King’s show last fall that it would take place in towns and cities nationwide. Making this actually happen has proved an enormous effort. Although March officials declined to speculate on an exact attendance in Washington, the event’s website predicts "tens of thousands" will gather.

The "anchor event" for most rallies will be a candlelight vigil, usually on Friday, Sept. 25. The one in Washington, DC, will be held near the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. "This occasion to come together to conquer cancer would be less than true to its real mission if we did not pause to reflect on people who cannot be with us," Ms. Stovall said.

As participants gather on The Mall near the Capitol on Sept. 26, they will have the opportunity to meet riders completing a cross-country bicycle trek promoting The March, which began in San Diego on July 20 (see photo). The group’s leader, Dani Grady, 40, is a 10-year survivor of advanced breast cancer.

Host Selma Schimmel of "The Group Room," a weekly radio talk show devoted to cancer issues, plans to air taped segments from both Washington and Los Angeles as part of her Sept. 27 broadcast.

Events outside Washington include a march, rally, and health fair in San Diego; a public forum in Atlanta; an educational symposium in Chicago; a statewide petition drive in Kansas; and a parade of cancer survivors on the field and a moment of silence prior to the nationally televised University of Michigan-Michigan State University football game.

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