Before she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia, Savannah Green, a former state Citizenship Board member and 4-H’er from Winn Parish, knew very little about cancer.
After her diagnosis, Green wanted to work with 4-H to educate others about the disease.
“I wanted to make sure that everyone else was well-informed so that they could help give back to those fighting the disease,” she said. “I knew that through 4-H that would be possible.”
The state 4-H Citizenship Board recognized the need for cancer awareness in the summer of 2016 and wanted to do something about it. Louisiana has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in the country, according to America’s Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation, which ranks the state 49th.
“It is extremely scary, but I had to choose not to think about these things because I wasn’t going to let this defeat me,” she said. “Keeping a positive attitude during that time was one of the most important things. I was also surrounded by friends and family who helped keep my mind off things. Keeping a positive outlook on the whole situation was difficult because it was so hard to ignore the side effects of the chemo.”
Cancer awareness was identified as a need by Louisiana 4-H members and was selected as the statewide service-learning focus for 2017 through 2019. The Citizenship Board led this effort by creating an informative resource packet with facts about cancer to increase awareness and practical ways to support and encourage participation in the statewide service-learning focus.
“Service projects focusing on cancer awareness are so important,” Green said. “Most people don’t understand what it’s like to face cancer or have someone in your family facing cancer, so it is important that we do projects and presentations to show those people why it is important to help those battling the disease.”
During the cancer awareness service-learning projects, parishes across the state have participated in events such as chemotherapy care kit drives, awareness days, chemotherapy port pillow creation projects and patient visitations. During the first year of the project, more than 8,000 4-H members and 600 adults promoted cancer awareness by reaching more than 10,820 people. Parish 4-H programs, local 4-H Clubs and 4-H members logged in more than 4,300 hours of service.
The Louisiana 4-H Program initiated two statewide events held during 4-H University and 4-H Day at the Capitol. During 4-H University, the Louisiana 4-H Citizenship Board presented the first Heart of Service Award to the Central Region for their outstanding support of the “Kickin’ Cancer” awareness campaign. Sponsored by the Citizenship Board, a “Change for a Change” money drive raised $614.51, which was donated to the Ochsner Cancer Center of Baton Rouge to support cancer research.
During the 4-H Day at the Capitol, the Citizenship Board organized a “Kicking Cancer Is Our Goal” event promoting cancer awareness through interactive stations with a focus on cancer community service. Participants created bookmarks that were donated to Cancer Services of Acadiana. 4-H members donated 1,622 items, which included puzzle books, peppermints, notebooks, pencils and lip balm for gift bags for chemotherapy patients, and made homemade stress balls that were donated to Cancer Service Center of Greater Baton Rouge.
“My agents allowed me to use my platform in 4-H to promote service projects pertaining to cancer,” Green said. “Being diagnosed was just a nudge in the right direction. It has taught me how to give back to those who need it and that positivity and good friends can cure anything. 4-H and the Citizenship Board gave me both.”
The Louisiana 4-H Citizenship Board made a presentation that included a miniature camp to increase awareness about cancer at 4-H Day at the Capitol.
This article appears in the Louisiana 4-H 2019 Annual Report.
“It is extremely scary, but I had to choose not to think about these things because I wasn’t going to let this defeat me.” — Savannah Green, Winn Parish 4-H member