Rugby resident receives Cancer Action Network honor
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network North Dakota named Rugby resident George Gray the Member of the Month for February in recognition of volunteer work described as “a perfect fit” for him.
“He’s an all-around great guy,” Pierce County Relay for Life organizer Laurie Odden said of Gray. “He came out one day and decided he wanted to get involved in Relay for Life. He wasn’t sure how but he wanted to make a difference in the fight against cancer.”
“He kind of got hooked up in our advocacy line, working with government officials and our lobbying side of the American Cancer Society,” Odden said.
“This has been absolutely perfect fit for him,” Odden said of Gray’s work of reaching out to community members to encourage them to join the fight against cancer.
“He’s on top of legislative issues and he’s reaching out and he’s just really knowledgeable on that stuff,” Odden added. “We’ve been fortunate to have him.”
Gray laughed modestly at the praise for his work when he talked to the Tribune to describe his volunteer work, which grew from his own fight against prostate cancer.
Gray said he’s been cancer free for eight years.
“I have an anniversary,” Gray noted. “Cancer free since April of 2012. This is good.”
Describing his work, Gray said, “I really interact not as much with legislators as with people – you and our neighbors and everybody else to get them to become members of the Cancer Action Network.”
“Because we as voters, we’re the ones who make a difference,” Gray added. “We’re the constituents for our legislators and we need to let them know what to do with our tax dollars for cancer.”
“That’s what Cancer Action Network pretty much does,” he noted.
“And when our Relay for Life group makes presentations, I’m there,” Gray continued. “When I was a member of the Rugby Lions Club, I made a presentation there with Laurie Odden. I’m a Pierce County Cancer Action Network advocate.”
“At the (Relay for Life) craft fair, I’m usually there with my things and my birdhouses and whatever else I build – I build birdhouses and woodcrafts. If you make a donation to Relay, you pick out a birdhouse,” Gray said.
“This year, we won’t be having our spring craft fair,” Gray noted sadly, referring to restrictions on public gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“When Harvey has their Relay for Life, I go down there. I have my little posters with me and I talk to people,” Gray noted. “I get petitions because there are a lot of petitions that we sign, like with tobacco.”
Gray said he’s been busy raising awareness and encouraging people to contact their state legislators and the North Dakota Congressional Delegation about bills important in the fight against cancer. “There’s legislation at the state and federal level for smoking prevention, especially with e cigarettes and youth being able to use them. Those kinds of things are going on.”
“I’m part of Jody Tuchscherer’s Journey (support group). I get to bring my little Cancer Action Network notebook with me to meetings,” Gray said with a slight laugh.
“I get them to renew their memberships and things like that. I pester Jody, too,” he added, laughing again.
When asked if the Cancer Action Network was limited to cancer survivors, Gray answered, “Oh, heavens no!”
“Everybody anywhere is welcome to join. If you’re a voter, that’s it. You can become a member,” Gray said. “Everybody in your office can become a member. Everybody you see can become a member. When you become a member, you receive information from the Cancer Action Network on all the legislation that’s going on and you get an email, either from state or federal level, or from Kim Kuhlmann, our grassroots manager. They tell you what the urgent activities may be and when you need to send a letter or give a call (to a legislator or member of the N.D. Congressional Delegation). The letters are usually preprinted.”
Gray said prepared statements are available for those calling their government representatives. “You just have to read, so that you can make our legislators aware of what you feel should be done for cancer, cancer research or cancer funding,” he noted.
“Right now, there’s an action item to let our federal legislators know, Senator (John) Hoeven and Senator (Kevin) Cramer [and Congressman Kelly Armstrong], that funding should not be taken away from cancer,” Gray indicated.
“People every day are dying from cancer, possibly even more so that our present crisis, and they have been for years. Don’t forget cancer research needs to be continuing. So it’s an action that everyone could call – and you don’t have to be a member of Cancer Action Network (to contact legislators about this).”
Gray said advocating for cancer funding and research is easy thanks to technology.
“It’s very easy to do, especially if you have a computer. You can interface and now that we’re so socially connected with our computers and our smart phones, it’s easy to contact our legislators,” he said.
Smart phones and technology will help people stay connected to their legislators and fellow Cancer Action Network members when practicing social distancing, too, Gray said.
“For $10 a month,” you’ll receive emails (with updates on legislation to fight against cancer). Not many, but at action times,” Gray added. “It isn’t like they bother you.”
Gray said the emails, updates and ideas are accessible via computers and smart phones to help Cancer Action Network volunteers stay active in their work.
What would he say to people thinking about joining?
“You can do this,” Gray answered with a laugh. “You can do Cancer Action Network social distancing!”
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