PR student team to honor childhood cancer victims in candlelight vigil
On March 15, the Bateman Team will be holding a candlelight vigil at Lee University to honor those who lost their lives to childhood cancer.
The event is part of the campaign “LeeU With Purpose,” which calls on the Cleveland community to “ignite change.”
The Public Relations Student Society of American (PRSSA) holds the Bateman Competition annually. The Bateman Team is made up of four to five senior public relations majors who compete to design a campaign for a client they are assigned. This year, they are representing With Purpose.
With Purpose is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness for the lack of funding for childhood cancer treatment research. They seek to empower youth and community members to be agents of change in the fight for safe and effective treatments.
Erin Benson founded With Purpose in 2014 when her son was diagnosed with a fatal form of brain cancer.
“I know when Sam was still alive, I was furious that there were no life-saving treatment options for him,” Benson said. “In short, there was no hope. I want to create hope. I want families to feel seen and to know there are people that want change.”
According to With Purpose, the National Cancer Institute allocates only 4% of its funding for treatment of all types of childhood cancers. In the last thirty years, four new treatments have been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer.
With Purpose tries to change those statistics through awareness. They also support organizations that work to develop more clinical trials and provide incentives for pharmacies who develop drugs for childhood cancer.
“After Sam died, I didn't know if I could keep running With Purpose. I didn't think I could engage with the disease that killed my son day in and day out,” Benson said. “A few weeks after his funeral, a group of Sam's neighborhood friends approached me and said they wanted to help With Purpose by planning an event. And they did: they organized a neighborhood fun run and raised more than $10,000 in one morning.”
Hundreds of kids between the ages of 5 and 25 have volunteered with With Purpose since it began. By getting young leaders involved, With Purpose hopes the next generation will believe they can change their communities.
Senior public relations major and public spokesperson for the Bateman Team Julia Emerson said that the campaign is aimed at making cancer research funding more accessible to everyone.
“You think that cancer is something only adults or someone that is really smart can tackle,” Emerson said. “With Purpose says, ‘No, we believe kids have the ability to be more creative, more innovative with fresher ideas.’”
The candlelight vigil is one opportunity for the Cleveland community to contribute to the “LeeU With Purpose” campaign. Vice President for Student Development Mike Hayes and theatre professor Dr. Christine Williams will be speaking. Williams will be talking about her experience as the mother of a son who was diagnosed with cancer and survived.
According to Emerson, With Purpose is also important on a local level.
“It’s amazing, when you talk to people, how much it impacts our community and how much it is here whether we want to talk about it or not,” Emerson said.
Dr. Patty Silverman, the academic advisor for the Bateman Team, said she believes the team is more passionate about their client because almost all of them have known someone diagnosed with cancer.
Sophomore interdisciplinary studies major Michael Hebron was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last July. After undergoing twelve treatments at the Simmons Cancer Institute in Illinois, he was pronounced cancer-free on Jan. 12.
Hebron said he plans to be an elementary school teacher and wants to use his battle with cancer to connect with his future students.
“I feel like that can be a unique opportunity to be able to speak to a student, if cancer has any prominence in their life,” Hebron said.
The Bateman Team created a banner for the campaign for people to sign. When not outside the Paul Conn Student Union, it follows the Bateman Team to their events. After the candlelight vigil, the campaign is sending the banner to Congress “to show that the Cleveland community cares.”
“I think with anything, if you don’t know, then you don't do anything. If you don't know there is a problem, you are not going to be aware or concerned,” Silverman said. “But I think creating awareness that there is such little research and treatments allows people to be heard. They can go to their…representative and get them to pass laws that more research be done.”
The campaign is running from Feb. 15 to March 15. In April, the PRSSA will choose the top schools to go before a panel of judges. The winning team receives $3,500 and a trophy; second place receives $2,500 and a plaque; and third place receives $1,500 and a plaque.
The candlelight vigil will be held at the Lee University Amphitheater at 7:30 p.m.