Leslie Miller has made a life-long goal of educating children and teens about the reality of cancer in their lives and what they can do about it. Because she knows that cancer affects every one in two men and one in three women, Ms. Miller is working to educate the community and especially youth, about this health concern.
Ms. Miller founded Teen Cancer Awareness Advocates Taking Steps (CAATS) For Prevention and Detection. This is a group of students dedicated to instilling early cancer detection and prevention habits in their community. Teen CAATS currently consists of about 20 high school students, and Ms. Miller organizes and plans all of their activities.
Ms. Miller is very active in the community and has coordinated a Cancer Awareness Week for the past two years in both her high school and the entire community at large. The mayor has made a proclamation each year designating one full week to cancer awareness because of her efforts. Cancer Awareness Week (CAW) is focused on teaching youth about the reality of cancer in their lives and what they can do about it.
During CAW, Teen CAATS assist Miller in the many activities. They take part in the rallies where cancer survivors and those closely affected by the disease speak to others. Ms. Miller contacts every florist in town and solicits donations of purple ribbons for the students to wear for support and unity. In addition, Ms. Miller works to get purple bows donated to hang in the businesses throughout Clarksville. Businesses also donate prizes, which are given to random students that are wearing their purple ribbons during this time. Ms. Miller also collects photos from students and faculty members of friends that were victims of cancer and use them in a memorial wall. This wall puts real faces on a disease that so many often try to ignore. There are also post CAW health classes that evaluates the knowledge participants have gained during the week.
Ms. Miller is aware that prevention is the most desirable way to approach cancer. As with many other things, it is better to be proactive than reactive with this disease. She teaches about eliminating the use of tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding inactivity and applying sunscreen everyday.
Cancer Awareness Week for Kids is a program that Ms. Miller designed with Teen CAATS. This targets second graders and presents them five methods of cancer prevention. Ms. Miller provides creative activities like puppets, coloring sheets, word searches, poster contests and singing. She and the Teen CAATS spend a week with the second graders and teach them how to utilize these steps to remain safe from cancer. Their age makes them very good candidates for prevention because these positive habits are being learned early.
In addition to Teen CAATS, CAW and CAW for Kids, Ms. Miller also organizes a high school team for the annual Relay For Life, which is the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraiser. During this past year, they raised in excess of $1,200.