Cancer affects us all at some point in our lives, even if we’re never diagnosed with it ourselves. But it does not affect everyone equally. For example, African Americans have the highest cancer death rates and shortest survival times for most cancers of any racial or ethnic group. Hispanic/Latino and Asian American and Pacific Islander people living in the U.S. have lower overall rates of cancer compared to white Americans but among the highest rates of infection-related cancers, such as stomach and liver.
According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2019-2021 report, “The causes of these inequalities are complex and reflect social and economic disparities and cultural differences that affect cancer risk, as well as differences in access to high-quality health care, more than biological differences.”
While there is a long way to go before true health equity is within reach, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is working toward a world in which cancer is a preventable and treatable disease for everyone. It’s investing over $50 million in research to identify and decrease inequities, giving grants to health systems in 32 cities to improve breast cancer screenings, working on community-led pilot programs across the country that address barriers to health, and advocating for public policies that make health care more accessible.
You can help ACS work toward this goal. As an independent nonprofit that is funded almost entirely by individual donations, ACS makes it easy to volunteer, donate, and fundraise. Here are three ways you can get involved.
Each year, ACS relies on over 1.5 million volunteers who donate their time — whether it be for a few months, a couple of weeks, or a single afternoon. One of the easiest ways to get involved is to be a day-of volunteer at a fundraiser. There are thousands of volunteers just like these across the country year-round.
ACS hosts about 2,150 Relay For Life events throughout the year, and every October, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walks are held around the country. Many communities host social galas and balls or golf tournaments, but there are also smaller, more low-key fundraisers, such as tailgating parties, comedy shows, and baseball games. All of these fundraising events rely on volunteers to set up, register participants, distribute information, and clean up afterward. It’s a great way for friends, family members, and coworkers to volunteer as a group for a day.
If you’re interested in short- or long-term volunteer opportunities, look for a nearby Hope Lodge community. These facilities provide free living accommodations to patients who have traveled to be near a cancer treatment center, and they are always looking for volunteers. Hope Lodge locations are currently exercising caution due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so volunteer opportunities will be centered around safe activities. Contact a Hope Lodge facility near you to see how you can help.
For those who love working with people, there are ACS Discovery Shops where volunteers can utilize their retail, merchandising, and customer service skills while being immersed in their local community. Look for a store near you.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need to be physically present to make a difference, and supporting the American Cancer Society mission is no exception. No matter where you are, there are lots of ways to get involved – from your home, on your computer, or even your smartphone.
ACS is always looking for skilled volunteers to manage patient programs and support events remotely. There are even virtual events held through Second Life, the largest-ever 3D virtual world built entirely by users. If you’re a talented builder or LSL scripter, you’ll be in demand at Second Life. Or, if you’re a gamer, consider participating in a livestream fundraiser.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network TM (ACS CAN) is the American Cancer Society’s nonpartisan advocacy affiliate. Their work has led to laws that require insurance companies to cover screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies, and their efforts helped pass smoke-free laws that protect more than 61 percent of the U.S. population. ACS CAN relies on volunteer action teams working together across the nation to advance legislation that reduces health disparities, improves access to health care, and funds cancer research. If you’re interested in volunteering, ACS CAN will match you to a role based on your skills and interests.
Finally, if you are a breast cancer survivor, there is a unique opportunity to share your experience with someone who is dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment. The American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery® program uses a website and an app to match trained volunteer breast cancer survivors with people facing a breast cancer diagnosis. It’s one way you can provide understanding and hope to individuals who need support during their breast cancer experience.
Donate or fundraise
If you like taking charge, you can set up your own fundraiser through Raise Your Way, where you can create your own DIY fundraising campaign to honor a loved one, by either donating your time or creating your own unique event. You can also create a Facebook fundraiser, an easy way to help raise funds to support the fight against cancer. Or, if you’d like to plan something in person, you can work with your community to host an event.
But you don’t have to be the planner to fundraise. Consider supporting women-led cancer research, nominating someone (yourself included) to participate as a Real Men Wear Pink candidate, or purchasing tickets to an event. If you like your activism to be more movement-oriented, you can raise money by walking, running, or biking in an ACS walk or race or through DetermiNation®, the American Cancer Society’s event endurance program. You can host a virtual fundraiser where you track your own miles to raise money.
You can also fundraise while making daily purchases. Amazon Smile lets shoppers designate ACS as their charity of choice, and it will donate 0.5 percent of your spending on eligible purchases to the organization. You can also donate spare change through a debit or credit card by rounding up your purchases, or buy and sell items through the ACS’s eBay Charity program. If you send greeting cards, stock up at the ACS shop, where 100 percent of the proceeds go to ACS.
Finally, the easiest way to support ACS is the most direct: a cash donation. You can make a one-time contribution of as little as $5 or set up a monthly payment plan — or even make a cryptocurrency donation. Every dollar helps the American Cancer Society further its goal to ensure cancer is treatable — for all.