Published on October 10, 2019
L-R: Honoree Amanda Soto, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressional Families Director Lisa McGovern, Patrick Dempsey, and honoree LeeAnn Johnson.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg entered the Members Room of the Library of Congress, a bipartisan audience, including members of Congress and congressional spouses, as well as leaders in the cancer community, greeted her with a standing ovation. Cancer knows no political party, and perhaps no time was this more apparent than at the 27th Annual Action for Cancer Awareness Awards Luncheon.
The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, a program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, held its signature event on September 26, celebrating Justice Ginsburg, LeeAnn Johnson (spouse of Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio), Amanda Soto (spouse of Rep. Darren Soto, D-FL) and Patrick Dempsey, actor, producer and founder of the Dempsey Center. The theme “Prevention at Every Age” highlighted each of their efforts to promote cancer prevention and early detection among Americans of all ages.
Congressional Families Program Executive Director Lisa McGovern began the program by acknowledging the recent death of journalist Cokie Roberts from complications of breast cancer. Ms. Roberts was a former recipient of this award, and having grown up in a congressional family herself (both parents served in Congress), was remembered fondly by many congressional spouses and members. Prevent Cancer Foundation® Founder and CEO Carolyn “Bo” Aldigé spoke about the Foundation’s mission, followed by warm welcoming remarks from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
L-R: Master of Ceremonies Paula Zahn, Prevent Cancer Foundation Founder/CEO Carolyn “Bo” Aldigé, honoree LeeAnn Johnson, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, honoree Amanda Soto and presenter Marcelle Leahy.
Investigation Discovery’s Paula Zahn, who served as master of ceremonies, recognized members of Congress in attendance before beginning the awards portion of the program. More than 40 congressional spouses and over 40 members of Congress attended the event, along with leaders and supporters from the cancer community.
LeeAnn Johnson and Amanda Soto were each recognized with the Congressional Families Leadership Award for their contributions in their home communities and as members of the Program’s Executive Council.
Ms. Johnson, a registered dental hygienist, has used her expertise to identify signs of skin cancer in loved ones, encouraging them to get screened. She is currently planning a hospital tour and cancer screening day in Marietta, Ohio, to educate residents in her home district.
Ms. Soto is an active op-ed contributor and participant in the Program’s “Posting with a Purpose” campaign, sharing educational and awareness information on social media. Inspired by a Congressional Families seminar highlighting the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Breast Health Education for Young Women Facilitator’s Guide, Mrs. Soto organized two breast cancer awareness events featuring local bilingual doctors in her home district to educate Florida women, with a focus on Latina communities.
Patrick Dempsey received the Excellence in Cancer Awareness Award for his leading role in founding of the Dempsey Center and The Dempsey Challenge, the Center’s run/walk/cycle fundraiser. The Dempsey Center, founded in 2008 and inspired by his mother’s battle with ovarian cancer, provides free services to those affected by cancer, including acupuncture, counseling, yoga and nutrition classes. The Center serves residents in Maine and has sites in Lewiston—Mr. Dempsey’s hometown—and South Portland. Mr. Dempsey gave an impassioned speech about the importance of working together to make progress in cancer prevention and early detection, and invited Dempsey Center Executive Director Wendy Tardif to share the stage.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received the Special Recognition Award as a symbol of perseverance and dedication to fitness and wellness no matter one’s age, health or professional obligations. A cancer survivor, Justice Ginsburg began regularly exercising with a trainer as a way to strengthen her body following treatment for her first cancer diagnosis at age 66. At age 86, she continues her notoriously rigorous exercise regime, inspiring Americans of all ages to prioritize health and fitness to reduce their cancer risk.
“It was very moving to hear Justice Ginsburg’s remarks noting, ‘There is nothing like an encounter with cancer to make one relish the joys of being alive,’” said Lisa McGovern. “The Justice continued saying, ‘It is as though a special zestful spice seasons my work and days. Whatever I do comes with heightened appreciation that I am able to do it.’”
As the event concluded, participants left with a renewed commitment to use their visibility to raise awareness about cancer prevention and early detection.