By Jonesa Rodriguez - July 02, 2021
Lung Cancer Awareness Month may be recognized in November, but for one group lung cancer awareness is a mission they focus on all year long.
The White Ribbon Project is an international grassroots movement representing all committed to changing public perception about lung cancer. A simple project with high impact. Love is at the center of their mission.
Started last year by lung cancer survivor Heidi Nafman Onda, the goal of the project is to not only bring awareness to lung cancer but also create a community for those who are caregivers, survivors or still battling the disease.
“Our goal is to bring acknowledgment that awareness is bigger than just one month, it’s a part of who you are,” said Chris Draft, president of the Chris Draft Family Foundation, which partners with the White Ribbon Project. “We want to make sure no lung cancer survivor feels like they don’t matter.”
After losing his wife to lung cancer, Draft has dedicated his life to being a lung cancer advocate. He travels around the country, leading several national initiatives to increase lung cancer screenings and push for more research.
“I partnered with Heidi on the project to ensure people understood the work they were doing,” said Draft. “I went out and shot some videos, helped make a few ribbons and started forming a group that could also help.”
The project’s mission is to highlight lung cancer by displaying handcrafted wooden ribbons painted white around the country. The intention is to spark conversation and change the face of lung cancer to include more prevention, early detection, treatment and research.
“The ribbons have facts on them and are displayed everywhere. We are doing everything we can to make people in the community aware,” said Draft. “We are sharing videos, putting content on social media and speaking at support groups.”
Since its start in 2020, over 700 white ribbons have been made and distributed to anyone who wants to show support of lung cancer research and advocacy. They have also been shared with over 30 cancer centers, including Moffitt Cancer Center.
“The work that Chris and the others are doing within the White Ribbon Project is amazing. It is important to constantly be spreading awareness of lung cancer,” said Dr. Jhanelle Gray, chair of the Department of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt. “We are proud supporters of advocacy work and research at Moffitt, as it is our goal to decrease the lung cancer burden.”