“Thank you, Empire State Building. Your refusal to support the childhood cancer community has only created a firestorm of support. The kind of support we have been rallying for over decades! Your grossly insensitive decision, and the following bad press that accompanied it, has only helped our cause and raised childhood cancer awareness across our beloved city and beyond. So, for that and only that, I thank you.
For anyone who doesn't understand where this message stems from, let me back up a bit. September is childhood cancer awareness month, and the awareness movement is represented by a gold ribbon. This is my son, Ty. He died of cancer 13 days after his fifth birthday. He was the one, out of every 300 children, who was suddenly and inexplicably diagnosed with cancer. He deserves your attention and support. They all do.
Over the past five years, I have watched a lot of failed awareness efforts unfold across the childhood cancer community. It seems the awareness efforts spread across the group of existing parent advocates who are already all-too aware of the realities of childhood cancer, but rarely reaches far beyond that audience. I have read the long and tired debate over whether or not awareness is effective if it doesn’t result in action. The bottom line, in my humble opinion, is that if new people become increasingly aware, many of them will be moved into action. They will commit to donating, or doing something for the cause. Can you imagine the increase in fundraising success that the breast cancer community has seen since the world started going Pink in October (and beyond)?
Or consider the ALS Bucket Challenge. Most people who participated also took the time to learn about this heartbreaking disease, and make a donation as well. Last time I checked, they raised $14 Million as a result! Yes, I think it’s fair to say that awareness results in action. It is not a wasted effort – it is an important one.
Inspired by the movement that turned the White House pink among hundreds of other renowned landmarks, the childhood cancer community has tried to emulate that success by asking those same buildings to go gold in September. A petition was successfully submitted to the White House with the required 50,000 signatures in 2012, but it was later denied. The Empire State Building has said “no” as well, for years on end… but this year, that denial has ignited a fire among us.
A grieving dad named Tony Stoddard made it his promise to his son Cole to turn the world gold and raise awareness in his memory – and he has made a great impact so far. This year, Tony made a formal request to the Empire State Building that was recently denied. When he shared that denial with his followers on social media, dozens and dozens of other parents and non-profits have come forward stating that they, too, had made the request of the Empire State Building and received the same letter over the years (in fact, one of our board members at the TLC Foundation filled out the application and received a letter of denial last February). Little did we know that the owners of the building were so adamant about NOT going gold for our kids – until we started sharing our collective experiences and hitting social media with the hashtag #empiregogold.
As a parent who lost a child to cancer, I can’t tell you how deeply insulted and appalled I am. For years we have been trying to make a difference in September, and the Empire State Building’s refusal to go gold is perfectly representative of the countless roadblocks we face every step of the way. It’s confusing and hurtful. How can anyone come up with a good and just reason NOT to support childhood cancer awareness? It’s mind boggling! We are talking about children. With cancer. Kids. Babies. Teenagers. I just can’t wrap my head around it. Who is the person behind the anonymity of a computer screen who deleted photo after photo after photo from the Empire State Building’s Facebook page? How did that person look Sweet Sally Sunshine in the face, and hit the delete button?
On the flip side, as a PR professional, I also recognize that they unintentionally did us a favor. For the first time since I, myself, became “aware” in the worst way possible – I am seeing the community join hands in a polite, unified protest. We are demanding an explanation and leveraging the media as a collective group, and it has been incredibly successful. I am so proud of the parents who have bravely spoken out in front of the camera. They are reaching an entirely new audience and turning something terrible into something terrific. What has happened next is a dream come true.
- Times Square – the crossroads of the world – is going gold on September2
- One World Trade Center – the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere– is going gold
- The Helmsley Building will be lit gold in September
- The Coney Island Parachute Drop, a historical NYC landmark – is going gold Sept. 5
- The City of Yonkers (Town Hall) will be gold this September
- Staten Island Hilton is going gold
- Bay Ridge Brooklyn is going gold
- The Mid-Hudson Bridge will again glow in beautiful gold
- Theodore Roosevelt Executive Building in Nassau County is going gold
- The New York Stock Exchange’s closing bell rang for pediatric cancer awareness
- The New York Giants have gotten behind the effort (specifically, Mark Herzlich and Tom Coughlin) and will be supporting the go gold movement]
- Kennedy Square in Long Beach, NY, will be lit up gold
And this is only some of the lightings announced for New York State. There are many other gold lightings planned across the country and around the world! This is an incredibly positive movement. I am proud. For the first time, I am excited for September rather than disheartened. I do believe we are on our way to turning the world gold :)
Riding the coattails of the ice bucket challenge, I have also seen dozens of adorable new campaigns follow suit in support of childhood cancer awareness for September, and I will support each and every one. Please check them out and participate where you can throughout the month.
#goldselfie, so fun.
#gogoldchallenge, learn the facts
#youvebeengolded, a fun version of “ring and run,” leaving behind a gold ribbon to display on the front door
#whippingchildhoodcancer, take a pie in the face and make a donation
#goldmaniCURE, get a gold manicure and post a picture
#beboldgogold, asks you to talk to others about childhood cancer
This September, won’t you please go gold for our kids? XOXO. Thank you for your continued love and support.