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ACS Best Practices: Survivor and Caregiver Engagement

Guest Blog by Breanne Spear and Nicole Kelly of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences


Survivor and Caregiver Engagement on Campuses


Colleges Against Cancer is one of the largest and most active clubs at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health sciences thanks to the 100+ students, faculty and staff who are dedicated to the success of our chapter. With the overwhelming support we receive each year we have been able to develop passive and active programs that meet the goals of all four pillars of the American Cancer Society. Our Colleges Against Cancer chapter was awarded National Survivor and Caregiver Engagement Chapter of the Year for 2015 – 2016.

Our Survivorship committee created opportunities to work closely with Albany Medical Center and the local American Cancer Society Hope Club to support people battling cancer. The students put together Chemo Care Packages which contained fuzzy socks, hand sanitizers, tissues, mints and chapstick that were then donated to patients receiving chemotherapy at the hospital. To lift spirits we participated in a comedy night at the Hope Club, in which our students were able to spend time with survivors and their families and try to laugh away some of the stresses that these people face on a daily basis.  A new program we participated in last year that was well received was working in the garden at the Hope Club. Our students cleaned out the garden, planted new flowers and decorated the area to turn the space into a relaxing oasis that patients and families could use for reflection.

One of our most rewarding experiences was visiting the children’s oncology unit at the Albany Medical Center and playing games, doing crafts and talking with them. Our students dressed up as the kids’ favorite superheroes and were able to leave them with Love Your Melon hats that were donated. Being with children who are battling this ugly disease and seeing them still have joy and light in them is continued inspiration for us to do what we do as College’s Against Cancer, and we hope to continue our partnership with Hope Club and AMC.

Our largest events are Making Strides against Breast Cancer and, of course, Relay For Life.  At both of these events we incorporate the other pillars into the fundraisers and programming we do to raise awareness, support and money for ACS.

For Making Strides, we decorated our Student Center Atrium in pink prior to the walk and our “Think Pink Party”.  During the Think Pink Party, people were able to get pink manicures, pink hair extensions, play games, win raffles and enjoy pink treats from our bake sale.  Through these various events and fundraisers, we were able to raise $3,790 and had 102 participants for the walk!



Relay For Life is one of the largest events on our campus and last year’s theme was “Saving the World One Cure at a Time”.  Through our kick off and fundraising events we incorporated the theme through different drinks (Hulk Juice and Flash Drink), snacks (Fantastic Four Veggies and Dip, Cheese and Pretzel Hammers and Chocolate Covered Batman Pineapple) and activities.  The night of Relay we dedicate an entire room to the survivors who attend and provide free back massages.  We also create gift baskets for each of them to take home which last year included a coffee mug, hot chocolate, prayer rocks, a custom-made adult coloring book and heating packs made by our schools Craft Club.  At Relay our Education chair worked with our ACS Rep to have a large inflatable colon that we stationed over the Relay track.  All walkers had to pass through the colon and could stop and see the different stages of polyps and cancer for people to look at and touch.  Our Advocacy Chair was able to team up with a local hair salon and bring in hair stylist to volunteer their time to shave the heads of students who were “going bald through cancer”. Eighteen students and faculty either shave their heads or donated 8 inches of hair to Pantene for their program that creates wigs for cancer patients.  The going bald for cancer event raised over $400! In total for our Relay Event we were able to raise $43,965 with 37 teams and 496 participants.  Our College’s Against Cancer Chapter was so excited about the year we had last year.  Each of our 4 Pillars are well are their way to planning events that bring awareness to Cancer Education, Advocacy, Survivorship and Relay For Life and we can’t wait to see what this year brings!

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