Volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network gathered Saturday night to illuminate the Minnesota State Capitol to honor lives impacted by cancer.
The Lights of Hope Across America event celebrated its 11th year by hosting hometown events this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, around 600 volunteers from across the United States would gather in Washington D.C. to place luminarias around the Lincoln Memorial.
"Because of COVID we haven't been able to go out to Washington D.C. this year or last year," said Cory Whiting, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and Minnesota's Lights of Hope ambassador. "So everyone has been doing their own displays back home, in their yards, or at special places in each state."
Over 30,000 luminarias are typically set-up during the Washington D.C. event.
"We're hoping to get 500 or 1,000," Whiting said. "I think I have almost 100 of my own."
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 33,260 Minnesotans will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2021. This year's 11th Lights of Hope Across America events coincides with the 20th anniversary of the ACS Cancer Action Network, which policymakers at every level of government to make cancer their top priority.
"We really just need to bring awareness to our state and federal representatives that we need laws, money for research, and that they need to keep being aware of that," Whiting added.
The pandemic has brought a wave of encouragement to individuals when it comes getting annual physicals and screenings. In early September, Minnesota US Senator Amy Klobuchar announced she battled breast cancer earlier in the year and wrote about the importance of proactive healthcare.
"It's easy to put off health screenings, just like I did. But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through," she wrote. "I am so fortunate to have caught the cancer at an early enough stage and to not need chemotherapy or other extensive treatments, which unfortunately is not the case for so many others."
Saturday night's even encouraged social distancing and face masks, and was viewable on Facebook.