Relatives of Children With Cancer Lobby for Research Funding

By Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 2, 2009

When Clint Beasley made the rounds of lawmakers' offices on Capitol Hill, a memory of events that altered his world helped him focus on his unfamiliar mission as a citizen lobbyist.

That week two years ago seems like a whirlwind now to Beasley.

It was on a Thursday that the first-time father took his small but seemingly happy 10-month-old son, Devin, to a doctor's appointment. As the doctor felt the boy's abdomen, she found a bump.

Probably nothing, she told Beasley, but she recommended an ultrasound sometime soon. The next morning, however, the doctor called and said she had set up an ultrasound appointment for that day.

After the examination, the doctor took Beasley into her office. As he sat with Devin on his lap, the doctor told him what the ultrasound had revealed: His son had stage-five kidney cancer.

"It changed my life," Beasley said. In the days that followed, his son had surgery and began chemotherapy.

Devin, almost 3, has been cancer free for nearly two years. But the time spent tending to a child with cancer has made his parents, Beasley and his wife, Nhi Beasley, of Potomac committed to raising money for research that they hope will prevent other families from enduring the same ordeal.

Last week, Beasley joined with hundreds of parents, friends and family members of children who had cancer from throughout the region and across the country to lobby Congress for money for childhood cancer research. More than 200 meetings were held with members of Congress or their staff members during the two-day event, known as Reach the Day.

"This is the first time I've done something like this," Beasley said. Beyond asking for the research dollars, he said he wanted members of Congress to know that he thinks childhood cancer "is a solvable problem."

Moreover, he said, he wanted to tell them that the research effort does not depend solely on federal funds because "we raise a lot of money independently." He said he raises $50,000 to $70,000 a year through his and his wife's efforts, such as golf tournaments and charity walks.

He visited the offices of several members of the Maryland congressional delegation: Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Frank M. Kratovil Jr. and Chris Van Hollen, all Democrats. Only Van Hollen met personally with Beasley; in the other offices, he discussed the research funding with staff members.

Beasley said he appreciated the time with Van Hollen. He "came in and just said, 'I understand what you are going through, and I believe in what you're doing,' " Beasley said. "And that was just beautiful, and it would have been nice to see more."

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