NewYorkIslanders.com and Ridgewood Savings Bank are spotlighting heroes who are helping their community! This month we are celebrating organizations that are taking the fight to cancer. Nominate a community hero here!


Hockey Fights Cancer month may be over, but it never stops for the American Cancer Society.

Most people are familiar with the ACS, as they are one of the nation’s largest and most prominent cancer organizations. They are the second-largest fundraiser for cancer research after the US government, with $5B invested in cancer research since 1946, and they have served 3.2M patients in the last decade alone. That includes some Islanders fans, like the breast cancer survivors the team visited in October. 

The ACS is a valuable resource for patients who are recently diagnosed, with plenty of information at cancer.org, as well as a 24-hour hotline. The organization provides a variety of support programs to patients undergoing treatment, from rides to appointments, to hair loss and mastectomy products for women battling breast cancer.

But even the nation’s largest and leading cancer organization isn’t immune to the effects of COVID-19, which have limited their fundraising and reach over the past nine months. They’ve seen a 50% shortfall in research funding, which could have a lasting impact. In the immediate they’ve had to pause patient support systems like their Hope Lodges and volunteer driving programs, due to COVID-19 precautions. Fundraising from galas, walks and sporting events typically goes towards those patient services programs.

“It’s been, like many other non-profits, it’s been a really, really challenging year,” said Margaret Belch, the ACS’ Strategic Director, Regional Sports and Entertainment. “One of the little sayings we’ve come up in the last couple of months is cancer never stops, and neither will we.”

Like everyone else, the ACS has gone virtual since March, taking their in-person fundraisers, galas and speakers and hosting them online. There are pros and cons, but they’ve been able to expand their audiences geographically, so that viewers in New York can attend speeches in Chicago and vice versa. While hosting fundraisers at sporting events, like Islanders games, is on-ice, they’ve tapped into gamers, who host fundraisers on their streams. It’s one of the ways they’ve been able to adapt.

The ACS has always been a comprehensive resource for patients and caregivers alike, which they’ve continued to pride themselves on during the pandemic. They have a hotline staffed 24 hours a day that in 2019 received 1.42M calls from patients and caregivers needing support per their website. Their online info center and chat can help provide answers from afar. 

“If you have any questions, or just need somebody to talk to, anything around cancer, there’s a trained cancer information specialist there to take your call and walk you through any type of issue you might be having,” Belch said. “They also help connect you to services.”

Education and reminding people about preventative care has been a priority during the pandemic, and something that can be continued even when in-person services may not be available. The ACS understands people may be skittish about visiting a doctor’s office, but lapses on regular check-ups and cancer screens can have dire consequences, so they want to remind everyone to get checked. 

“Early detection is another thing that’s been adversely affected by COVID-19, because so many folks aren’t going for routine checkups right now,” Belch said. “The later you are diagnosed, the harder that the battle is going to be.”

“We have to find it to do something about it,” she added. 

While it’s been a tough year, the ACS is committed to continuing the fight against cancer, but to do that, they’re asking for a little help. Even a few dollars on Giving Tuesday can go a long way. 

“We’re still here, every hour of every day if you need support, need to talk to somebody,” Belch said. “Cancer never stops and neither will we, but we need that financial support to be able to fund that cancer treatment that can find that next breakthrough and provide these different programs support.”


For more information, visit cancer.org, or follow @AmericanCancer on Twitter.

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