Staying Gold: World Fights for Pediatric Cancer Awareness

So it seems when the Empire State Building went silent instead of gold, they underestimated passionate advocates and supporters, who are raising awareness that has the potential to save lives.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The MLS. One World Trade Center. Times Square. The Arizona Diamondbacks. Portland's Morrison Bridge. The Indianapolis Canal. Well Fargo's Duke Energy Center. Toronto's CN Tower.

These are just a few of the iconic landmarks, teams, businesses and individuals who believe the world looks better in gold.

In September 2014, the Empire State Building received national backlash for their decision not to go gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. What happened instead was a movement of thousands of individuals and organizations determined to shine a light on pediatric cancer, all types of which receive less than 3 percent of The National Cancer Institute's $4.6 billion budget. It is said that too often we underestimate the power of a kind word, a listening ear, a small act of kindness, all of which has the potential to turn a life around...

So it seems when the Empire State Building went silent instead of gold, they underestimated passionate advocates and supporters, who are raising awareness that has the potential to save lives.

MLS launched a league-wide initiative, Soccer Kicks Cancer, to raise funds for Childhood Cancer Research, and Columbus Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson, a childhood cancer survivor himself, founded The LampStrong Foundation. He set out to support, both emotionally and financially, children who have battled cancer, saying: "The life of a child is precious, and every human deserves the opportunity to live a long, healthy and prosperous life." Lampson, who observes that "childhood cancer is such a burden to the human heart," believes childhood cancer awareness spotlights the perils of pediatric cancer to the general public, who may not understand the magnitude of cancer's grip on children throughout the world.

Among The LampStrong Foundation's goals are providing support for families of cancer patients in treatment, offering activities for current cancer patients and supporting cancer research by distributing grants. A passion project, you can see Lampson's light and story in every word. He is an articulate, fervent advocate, exactly the kind of individual who will ensure the world is changed for the better: "Having to fight for every breath, every day, every moment, makes one realize the true importance, beauty and value in every second." The goalkeeper is making every one of those seconds count, and is an example of giving back coming to life in a major way.

Meanwhile, Ronald McDonald House New York provides a temporary "home away from home" for families of patients undergoing treatment. On September 2nd, RMH-NY kicked off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with a Going Gold event, which RMH-NY CEO Bill Sullivan says reinforces the mission of Ronald McDonald House: "What we do is keep the family together with the child, and provide not only the housing but an array of social services and social programs to help that family keep the stress level really down to a bare minimum."

RMH-NYC gives families and patients the opportunity to stay together while children are receiving treatment from one of thirteen hospitals RMH-NYC partners with in the city. As Sullivan says: "While we do not specialize in medicine, we consider ourselves a part of the cure in that we provide the housing for families that are afflicted with cancer." Sullivan mentioned that RMH-NY is the "Ronald McDonald House to the world" because of the facility's national and international reach. They give going gold a global meaning.

There have been numerous trailblazers of the "going gold" movement: Among them is Joel Waldman, a reporter at FOX5 NY who valiantly covered New York landmarks that lit up for pediatric cancer, and notably, The Ronan Thompson Foundation. Founded by Maya Thompson after losing her four-year-old son, Ronan, to stage 4 Neuroblastoma, RTF is changing the face of childhood cancer.

"It is my hope that one day, the entire world will know what the gold ribbon represents so that statistics change, treatments become less toxic and the rates of survival increase," Thompson said. This September, RTF launched #BeBoldGoGold, founded by Thompson and Kassie Rehorn, an international social media movement that encouraged followers to deck themselves out in gold to raise awareness for childhood cancer. The campaign was a smash success, but Thompson knows what gold needs is permanence, saying: "The gold movement that just happened this last September was absolutely amazing, but we need to continue the same awareness for every month in order for things to really change."

Kids deserve more than just September. Or just 3 percent.

With LampStrong supporting survivors, RMH-NY catering to families and patients, RTF fighting for a cure and thousands of other individuals, organizations and businesses, childhood cancer is no longer a secret. It is the harshest of realities, but with the aforementioned people at the helm, they are lighting the way toward a cancer-less world.

"For those of us who are aware, it is our job to keep the momentum moving and continue to speak up truthfully about how horrifically heartbreaking the world of childhood cancer really is," observed Thompson.

September may have ended, but the fight against childhood cancer battles on. For patients fighting cancer, the fight doesn't stop when the calendar flips to the next month. To condense childhood cancer to one month is an injustice to the patients and families for whom it is a day in, day out fight, for whom gold is not just a color, but a call to action, a hope for a future.

Together, we can keep the world gold.

Popular in the Community