During a press conference at the Statehouse on Sept. 22, after proclaiming September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Governor Henry McMaster surprised Laura Allen of Spartanburg by presenting her with the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor.
The Order of the Palmetto is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. Allen, a fully devoted South Carolinian, has served on numerous boards across South Carolina. Known for her dedication to childhood cancer and building the multi-state Children’s Cancer Partners organization, and her involvement in the community, Allen was nominated by elected officials and community leaders.
“Laura has brought an impressive record of public service to South Carolina, where she took up the lifesaving battle against the #1 disease killer of our Carolina children,” said Rep. Max Hyde in his letter of nomination. “She has transformed a precious little ‘kitchen table charity’ serving just one county into a true national model for childhood cancer patients and family support.”
Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas provides support to young children across North and South Carolina battling cancer. Since joining the organization in late 2014, Allen has grown CCP from helping a small handful of patients to expecting to serve over 1,700 children by the end of the year. Because of Allen’s efforts, CCP has become widely admired as a national model for childhood cancer patients and family support.
Dr. Ki Young Chung, Oncologist with Prisma-Greenville and CCP Board Chair, said that Allen fully embodies the organization's mission through building trusting relationships with pediatric cancer treatment centers, families, staff, and community members.
“Laura works tirelessly to improve and sustain the extraordinary safety net that CCP provides to Carolina children and families in need," Chung said. "Our state is envied by so many others for having such a unique resource – one that responds immediately, comprehensively, and continuously to the needs of so many brave children.”
Since joining (then) Children’s Security Blanket in 2015 when it served just Spartanburg County with a budget of $70,000, Allen has engaged donors and expanded across all of South and North Carolina, today helping over 1,500 children get to lifesaving treatment with a budget of over $2.6 million. The expanded organization, Children’s Cancer Partners, receives 30-40 referrals monthly from pediatric cancer treatment centers, from amongst the estimated 600 Carolina children diagnosed yearly. The organization provides treatment access transportation, lodging, meals, home care, emergency, and end-of-life support.
After accepting the Award, Allen was presented with bouquets totaling 75 roses – symbolic of the 75 or more Carolina children who will lose their battle with cancer this year.
CCP Board Member Glenn Cash of Greenville summed up the challenges of childhood cancer with a simple set of numbers – the fingers of one hand.
• Cancer is the #1 disease killer of Carolina children
• Only 2 institutions in South Carolina treat children – MUSC and Prisma Health
• Rural and poor children are at 3 times greater risk for misdiagnosis, incomplete treatment, relapse, or death
• Only 4% of all cancer research dollars are directed at pediatric cancer
• One in 5 children diagnosed will not survive
Overwhelmed by the surprise presentation, Allen thanked the Governor for his efforts to raise awareness of childhood cancer, and gladly accepted the award “on behalf of all the children still in need of our help.”
Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas is headquartered in Spartanburg where it was started as an all-volunteer project 20 years ago and has a North Carolina field office in Durham.
For more information, please visit www.childrenscancerpartners.org.
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