Childhood Cancer Awareness Month 2021: WMC Reflects on the Impacts of Pediatric Cancer

Gold Ribbon representing childhood cancer awareness. Photo credit: University of Iowa Dance Marathon

Gold Ribbon representing childhood cancer awareness. Photo credit: University of Iowa Dance Marathon

Since 2012, Americans have designated September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This month is a time to recognize the children battling cancer and commemorate those who have passed. Every year, fundraisers take place, collecting donations for research and to support the families managing the cost of treatments for their child. 

Thousands of children and families around the world are impacted by the devastating effects of childhood cancer. According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, approximately 15,780 children ages 0-19 are diagnosed with cancer every year in the U.S alone. Globally, 300,000 children are diagnosed each year, 20% of which do not survive. 

Locally, our town of Long Valley has lost children and teenagers to cancer. Though these losses were painful, they opened the door to organizations to help others and more importantly, brought our town together to honor those children who have died.

The Sarah’s Fight For Hope Foundation was founded by Ingrid and Kenneth Crowley and inspired by their daughter, Sarah, after she passed away from a relapse of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. On the Sarah’s Fight for Hope Foundation website, her parents state, “This bright soul is now our inspiration to give back and help others. In her memory and to honor how she lived, we will take our grief and transform it into something positive for other pediatric cancer families. HOPE.” Their mission is to support both children and their families through their battle of cancer by providing financial assistance and various programs for children actively in treatment. This year, Donaldson Farms of Hackettstown, New Jersey, created their corn maze in the logo of Sarah’s Fight for Hope and will be donating $1 of each ticket to the foundation. 

Ingrid Crowley speaking at Donaldson Farms. Photo credit: Donaldson Farms

The American Childhood Cancer Organization was founded in 1970 and remains the largest organization dedicated to assisting families dealing with the effects of pediatric cancer. The ACCO website mentions that they are “…a community of families, survivors, and friends who have been affected by childhood and adolescent cancer. [They] offer our community support, information, [and] advocacy.” For the fifth year annually, the ACCO is partnering with Amazon to replace Amazon’s traditional packaging with specially designed shipping boxes.  These “GO GOLD” packages are another way of spreading awareness to buyers. 

Amazon Goes Gold Boxes used for the month of September to further spread awareness. Photo credit: About Amazon

As of 2019, the last year for which accurate statistics are available, the National Cancer Institute reported that there were 483,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the United States. Youth cancer rates are rising so this number will continue to grow in future years. At the same time, treatment options have expanded and survival rates are increasing. Overall, the most common types of cancer among children and adolescents are leukemias, brain and central nervous system tumors, and lymphomas. As an example of advances in treatment, the 5 year survival rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) was only 57% in 1975, meaning that only 57% of those with this disease lived five year past their diagnosis. According to the National Cancer Institute, the current 5 year survival rate for ALL is 92% 

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a proclamation naming October as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, however in 2012, President Barack Obama revised this, making September National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month instead. This has made September a time for Americans to outwardly show their support for young fighters of cancer by wearing gold and holding charity events throughout the month. As it comes to an end, it is important to continue to remember the remarkable courage of families impacted by pediatric cancer and to continue to tell their stories to raise awareness all throughout the year.