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CBS6 News Richmond: ASK Parents and Pediatric Cancer Survivors Drive Home Need to Continue Funding for Education Navigator Program Across the Commonwealth at Childhood Cancer Advocacy Day

ASK parents and pediatric cancer survivors lend their voices for Childhood Cancer Advocacy Day.

On Wednesday, January 24, 2024, ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation advocates gathered at the General Assembly of Virginia for a day full of legislator meetings to emphasize the transformative impact of the state-funded Education Navigator Program, which has proven to be a beacon of hope and assistance for children and their families facing the challenges of childhood cancer and late effects of treatment.

In attendance were ASK parents like Melissa Healey, ASK Mom of Tallulah, a 4-year-old battling B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, and ASK survivors like Grace Black, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five. They shared their unique stories of battling cancer and how ASK's Education Navigator Program has made an impact on their child's life and personal journey with cancer.

Grace Black was five years old when she was first diagnosed with cancer. Today, at 16 and cancer-free, she’s speaking with Virginia lawmakers about the long-term effects of her illness that can make learning challenging.

She says educational support has played a big role in helping her navigate big learning hurdles.

“There’s definitely discouragement, like why can’t I learn like everyone else?” Grace said. “I lost 96% of my visual memory so it makes it very hard to spell and it makes my brain work ten times harder in order to do the same schoolwork that my classmates are doing, and my peers are doing.”

Grace was among 40 advocates with ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation who met with Virginia’s state delegates and senators on Wednesday, thanking them for their support of children and adolescents who are battling cancer or are survivors…

Children like 4-year-old Tallulah, who now has an Education Support Navigator helping her adjust to preschool while undergoing treatment for B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Tallulah’s mother, Melissa Heatley, says the support provided by ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation has given her family peace of mind.

“The relationship that we’ve forged and the friendships, they mean everything to us,” Heatley said.

Heatley also met with lawmakers Wednesday morning to encourage more funding to assist families. While there is one education navigator in all five major cancer treatment centers across the state, ASK is hoping the program will grow to include more education specialists.

With over 500 children receiving education assistance in its first year, ASK aims to support even more children in the coming years through its Education Navigator Program. The goal is to provide support to the 6-7 children diagnosed with cancer in Virginia each week.

As we reflect on this past year's accomplishments, we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting children with cancer and those in survivorship. ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that every child and adolescent facing cancer receives the education and assistance they need to thrive beyond their battle with cancer. Together, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of those affected by childhood cancer in Virginia.

You can watch the full segment by Tracy Sears on CBS6 here.

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