More than 700 lighted bags, each honoring the life of someone affected by cancer, lined the breezeway in front of Tennessee School of Beauty, 4704 Western Ave., on Saturday night, Sept. 18. The display was among hundreds in communities across the county during Lights of Hope Across America.
In ordinary times, hundreds of cancer advocates from around the country would be gathered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where more than 50,000 Lights of Hope would surround the reflecting pool. But these are no ordinary times. Because cancer patients are increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus, we were unable to gather in D.C.
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network asked volunteers to create Lights of Hope displays in their home communities, which is exactly what we did.
Each Light of Hope was decorated with the name of a cancer survivor, someone lost to this horrible disease or a caregiver.
I honored members of my own medical team with Lights of Hope as well, including Dr. Sarkis Chobanian, Dr. Greg Midis and Dr. Joseph Meyer. I was diagnosed with stage-3b rectal cancer in March 2012.
Lights of Hope bags were sold for a $10 donation to ACS CAN. We raised $20,550 for the organization, more than three times the amount raised in Knoxville last year. Money raised will help ACS CAN continue its mission to advocate for everyone affected by cancer, including the estimated 41,980 Tennesseans who will receive a cancer diagnosis this year.
Elected officials at all levels of government were invited to attend the Lights of Hope event. Seema Singh, Knoxville City Council member representing District 3, attended. U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn sent remarks.
Other speakers included Jeff Dew, CEO of Gastrointestinal Associates, and Eric Mayer, CEO of EDP Biotech. Dew spoke of the importance of early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer, while Mayer discussed the progress being made in screening tests for colorectal and other cancers. EDP Biotech is seeking FDA Approval for Coloplex, a blood test to detect colorectal cancer.
During the display, Lights of Hope were held in place with canned food items that will be donated to Fresh Wagon, an effort of the American Cancer Society, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and community stakeholders to reduce food insecurity in Union County.
Lights of Hope in Knoxville was sponsored by Tombras, ORAU, Thompson Cancer Survival Center, Clean Eatz, Dr. David Smith, Kim Isenberg Realty Executives, Tennessee School of Beauty, Premier Surgical, Gastrointestinal Associates, Threds, EDP Biotech, Food City and United Cancer Support Foundation.
Michael Holtz is a writer, blogger and marketing professional. He is state lead volunteer for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.