JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sneakers were everywhere in the Capitol Wednesday as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) held their lobby day, asking legislators to help fund efforts to fight cancer.
As part of the lobby day, many legislators, staff, and the lobbying volunteers for ACS CAN wore sneakers as part of Sneakers and Suits, a tradition borrowed from Coaches Versus Cancer, another group appearing Wednesday with the group.
“We’re just trying to get folks to understand that cancer is a priority issue and having people share their cancer stories,” said Stacy Reliford, the Missouri government relations director for ACS CAN. “We know every legislator has their own cancer story and connection to the issue. We’re asking for them to support funding for the Show Me Healthy Women Program, funding for tobacco cessation, and to pass the palliative care legislation that’s in both the Senate and the House.”
Around 135 volunteers roamed the building in their sneakers, popping into their legislators’ offices and asking them to support the initiatives.
The sneakers were taken from the Suits and Sneakers weekend in January where college basketball coaches wore sneakers to raise awareness of cancer. Three local coaches, Kim Anderson of Mizzou, Bob Burchard of Columbia College and John Moseley of Lincoln University, spoke to volunteers about their own experiences with cancer.
Anderson spoke about his experiences with Rhyan Loos, the daughter of his assistant coach. Last year, Rhyan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. The school held a Rally for Rhyan event at a game last year where they raised thousands of dollars.
“It’s been so unbelievable to watch the support from everybody to help his family. Many of you were probably at the game at Mizzou Arena …That hit me hard,” Anderson said.
Anderson said through Rhyan’s issues, he’s learned about the support needed to fund pediatric cancer research and treatment.
“The one plea I would make, as we talk to our senators and congressmen and the people that can help us get more money is, pediatric cancer,” he said. “It’s a form of cancer that is really kind of underfunded.”
Moseley has had his own personal experiences with cancer. When he spoke with the group last year, he told them about his mother’s fight against melanoma. This year, he shared the news of his father’s diagnosis.
“Last year I stood here and told a personal story about my mom and her fight against melanoma that she eventually lost,” he said. “Little did I know that in October I would get a call from my father, who would be facing the same battle now as we stand here today.”
He urged the group to continue to ask their legislators to fund the fight against cancer.
“I’m honored to stand with [Anderson and Burchard] and with all of you as we continue to do what we can to raise awareness and keep pressure on these bodies here today to continue on funding the research and the caregivers,” he said.