This past Friday at the SSA 2012 national conference, we at ISSA were humbled to receive the Best Service award from the Secular Student Alliance. As the SSA put it:
"Illini SSA is receiving special recognition this year for Best Service for their support of a secular adoption agency following the Catholic adoption debacle. They participated in an interfaith program to bring holiday gifts to children, a blood drive to raise awareness about the MSM-ban which resulted in a donation of 33 units. They also helped to clean up a homeless housing & meal center alongside a Catholic center, and helped set up a Service Project Network on their campus."
It is a great honor to be recognized for our achievements, and we could not have accomplished the things we did without the wonderful community we have in ISSA.
|Who's awesome? You're awesome!|
It is for these reasons that the secular movement must pursue a means to give back to the community/nation/world with such passion. And this year looks to be a year where that passion will reach new and hitherto unimaginable heights. For the first time in history, every single notable organization in the atheist, secular, and skeptic movement will be showing its support for a single, worthy cause: The Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS).
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is an incredibly valuable organization for the secular movement to support. For those of you who do not know, some of the most prevalent types of cancers are found in the blood, such as leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and hodgkin's disease. Over 1 million people in the US are living with, or in remission from, these terrible afflictions, which are responsible for approximately 9% of all cancer cases.
The bright side is that cancers of the blood are some of the most researched, and an area in which incredible amounts of progress has been made. Out of the 50 new cancer drugs recently approved by the FDA, 21 were approved for blood cancers. These progressions have a ripple effect within the cancer research community. In fact, many of these drugs are already being investigated for use on other cancers.
The Leukemia Lymphoma Society aids individuals afflicted with these terrible conditions in many different ways. First and foremost, they fund vital research -- some of which recently resulted in the significant drug developments I mentioned earlier. Their goal is to find alternatives to the conventional chemo and radiation therapies, which tend to be incredibly expensive, wreak havoc on the body, and put sufferers' lives on hold for months or even years. Ultimately, they hope to find a chemotherapy drug that can be administered orally, allowing patients to just take a pill and continue on with life.
LLS also offers more direct support to those being treated for blood cancer. This comes in many forms: Financially, they have a program to give co-pay reimbursements to those who could not otherwise afford vital treatments. Their First Connection program acts as a support group for those suffering and in remission from a blood cancer. They also (and this was the part I found most thoughtful) have something called the Trish Greene Back-to-School program. Because of the intensity of existing cancer treatments, a child suffering from leukemia or other cancers can end up missing two to three years of school. The Trish Greene program provides information and support to ease a child's transition back to school as much as possible.
The current fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society is being spearheaded by the Foundation Beyond Belief, which recently became a corporate sponsor of the LLS. With a $500,000 matching offer from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and the backing of every secular group in the nation, the Foundation Beyond Belief hopes to be the first organization in the history of the LLS to raise one million dollars in funds for cancer treatment and research in just a year.
Of course, this begs the question: Why approach our service work as a single entity, rather than supporting our own preferred causes? The answer is simple: It is only when we move as one that we will truly see how great an effect we can have. As individuals, we are weak. As organizations, we are strong. As a movement, we are unstoppable.
ISSA considers itself to be at the forefront of secular service, so we are happy to announce that we are forming a fundraising team to aid the Foundation Beyond Belief in its fundraising goal and, through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, make the world a better place. Speaking as the incoming outreach director for ISSA, I urge every one of our members (and any interested non-members or alumni) to go onto this page and register to become a walker and help raise money for the LLS. In the coming year, ISSA will be organizing a number of fundraising opportunities and, while these events are still in their earliest planning stages, I can already guarantee they will be a wonderful experience for all. I would love for each and every one of you to donate whatever you can -- time or money -- to this cause. I can think of nothing more worthwhile.
You need to watch this. Right now.