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HDFS Student Meets with Legislators to Advocate for Improved Pediatric Cancer Research and Care

Photo of Aryahna Le Grand in front of the US Capitol
Aryahna Le Grand

This spring, Aryahna Le Grand went to DC as a member of the Mizzou MoreThan4 Organization to attend the 2024 Alliance for Childhood Cancer Action Days – an event that brings advocates together to discuss childhood cancer issues before Congress. Mizzou More Than4 is an organization dedicated to service and advocacy for children suffering from cancer. Aryahna is a second year student in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) studying to be a Child Life Specialist.

While at Action Days, Aryahna and 3 other Mizzou More Than4 representatives met with advocates from Missouri and beyond, with 32 states represented. Several of these advocates helped guide the group and taught them helpful tips and skills when meeting with legislative staffers. Aryahna met with the offices of Senator Schmitt, Senator Hawley, and Representative Graves.

Aryahna also met a Co-Founder of the Super Sam Foundation based in Fulton, Missouri, which is a local pediatric cancer foundation and support for families in mid-Missouri. In addition to discussing her experiences meeting with families who have lost children to cancer, Aryahna said that “this was an experience that was not only fulfilling and rewarding but was immensely eye-opening. While there have been improvements to medical care, the majority of cancer treatment has not changed in the past 30 years. The only way to make a change is to stand up for that change. I plan to continue standing up for this change and I hope to be on Capitol Hill once again next year, meeting with Congressman and advocating for what I believe in.” 

According to the National Cancer Institute (2023), a total of 15,190 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer and cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14 (American Cancer Society, 2024). While speaking with legislative staff, the advocates focused on policies that would fund and support childhood cancer prevention, treatment, and research initiatives, such as The STAR (Survivorship, Treatment, Access, Research) Act and Accelerating Kids’ Access to Care Act (AKACA).

When reflecting on her training in HDFS, Aryahna said, “the amazing thing about this experience, as someone who wants to be a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), is that I got to speak to so many people about their own experiences with a CCLS. There were so many people who talked about how much their CCLS helped them when their child, sibling, cousin, friend was going through treatment, they got through it because of the support they had from their CCLS. Then there were some people who had never heard of Child Life Specialists and when I explained it to them, they would say how much they wished there had been a CCLS there because it would have helped so much. It was incredibly gratifying to see how appreciated and beneficial the career that I’m going into has been for families even years later.”