(TRENTON) — Legislation Assembly members Louis D. Greenwald, Pamela R. Lampitt and Jack Conners sponsored to establish the third week in January as “Teen Cancer Awareness Week” in New Jersey was signed into law Friday.
The law had its genesis in the personal battle of Alicia Rose DiNatale, who lost her fight with a rare form of cancer in 2002, at age 17. During the third week of January, 2002, Alicia returned to school after receiving treatment for her disease and wearing a bandana to cover her head. Several teachers, unaware of her illness, demanded that she remove the bandana, which only served to humiliate Alicia and bring her condition to the center of attention.
After her death, her friends started a “bandana day,” held during the third week of January, to raise awareness of teen cancer, while her parents started the Alicia Rose “Victorious” Foundation (ARVF) to help build teen lounges in children’s hospitals, ensuring that teenagers receiving treatment would have someplace to gather and relax together while receiving treatment.
“Alicia didn’t have a choice about making her fight with cancer public,” said Greenwald (D-Camden) a longtime supporter of the ARVF. “However, the awareness raised about teen cancer through this law will hopefully mean that other teens battling the disease will be doing so in a public environment that is more aware and understanding of what they’re going through.”
“This law is a fitting memorial for Alicia and her family,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “The strength of their advocacy has helped — and will continue to help — raise public awareness and public sensitivity about a terrible disease afflicting a segment of the population that normally considers itself invulnerable.”
“This law will help to raise awareness of teen cancer, so that others like Alicia are not humiliated due to ignorance,” said Conners (D-Camden). “In doing so, it will hopefully make teenagers and their parents more aware of the risks and warning signs associated with cancer which may result in more early detection and more fights against the disease won.”
The new law (AJR-58) promotes awareness about teens with cancer and their unique medical and social needs, directing the governor to annually issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and New Jersey residents to observe the week with appropriate activities and programs.