Cancer-Stricken Kids Receive Apology from Secret Service

Cancer-Stricken Kids Receive Apology from Secret Service

Cancer-Stricken Kids Receive Apology from Secret Service

Over 15,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone in the United States, and more than 40,000 will undergo the harsh treatments we would all describe as a living hell. The majority of the kids who survive will suffer throughout their life from the side effects of the treatments, and one out of eight children diagnosed with cancer will not survive; If the cancer doesn’t take them from this world, all too often the treatment does.

Childhood cancer receives a sad 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget for research, and in 2010 the American Cancer Society allotted 1% of their funds to research childhood cancer. The numbers are similar for other research programs and, more times than not, children in this nation are left with mere crumbs. The number of drugs approved to specifically treat children approved in the last 20 years can be counted on one hand, and the options available for children are a sad reflection of our skewed priorities. The weaker victims of this horrific disease deserve our support and, sadly enough, their latest battle found them at odds with the White House. They’ve since been offered an apology, but we must ask how an event of this magnitude gets overlooked in the first place.

Someone dropped the ball, big time.

The U.S. Secret Service ordered hundreds of parents and their cancer-stricken children out of Lafayette Square on Saturday night, barricading the park for at least two hours and disrupting the group’s plans for a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of and research funding for childhood cancer, participants said.

Some of the parents and children expressed hurt and disappointment that the Secret Service and Park Police, citing security precautions, virtually shut down part of a two-day event called CureFest for Childhood Cancer.

To add to the disturbing news, CureFest had a permit.

Organizers, aligned with the Truth 365 grass-roots child-cancer advocacy program, had obtained a permit to hold “A Night of Golden Lights,” in which participants would light electric candles.

But as the closure continued on, some of the sick children, fatigued by the wait or the need to receive medication, had to return to their hotel rooms, organizers said. Others began crying, and some parents became enraged. Attendees said the group of at least 700 people was not allowed access to personal items they left behind, such as chairs and blankets.

Many not only noted the annoyance of the displacement, but also the disheartening aspect. Families are begging for more research, many of those begging have already buried their own children and continue to fight in their name, and to have the White House disrespect the cause is heartbreaking.

About 90 minutes before President Obama left for a speech at the nearby Washington Convention Center and until he returned at around 10:30 p.m., the Secret Service forced CureFest participants out of the park and far away from a scheduled candlelight vigil near the White House.

“We were told that they didn’t even know we were going to be here and it kind of hurts that our kids are not that important,” says Nancy Sanders, whose son Dale died of cancer.

The Director of the Secret Service eventually called Mike Gillette, the organizer of the candle light vigil, to offer an apology.

“And he offered a very heartfelt apology. He said they could have done things differently, they should have done things differently, and they will do an internal review,” says Gillette.

Gillette says he now plans on having a follow up CureFest event here in Lafayette Square in mid-October, a do-over if you will, and that he’d like to invite the Obama’s and the head of the Secret Service as well.

Whether they participate or not is yet to be seen. However, this is not the first time those who advocate on behalf of childhood cancer research have been shot down by the White House, nor the government for that matter. They’ve been asking the White House to go gold for the cause for years, and have been told that a policy was put in place making them unable to add additional annual light ups.

So weird, because I think I remember seeing the White House adorned in rainbow lights recently… I digress.

In addition, the Empire State Building has been asked to “go gold” countless times, yet they disregard the requests and continue lighting up for the Democratic National Convention, India Day, Westminster Dog Show, and even for an Alicia Keys concert. Those are just a few among other less important requests that have garnered special accommodations.

I know I’m not alone in saying that it’s high time that we as a nation put forth more effort to find better treatment options for the future leaders of our country. I hope I’m not alone in my opinion that, apology or not, cancer-stricken kids should have garnered more forethought. It’s sad to me that hundreds of children enduring a living hell were kicked down by the White House right around the time Ahmed and his clock received an invite.

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Ava Gardner