Aflac and its duck help CureFest put spotlight on childhood cancer

The Aflac duck takes part in CureFest's Walk for a Cure for Children's Cancer at the National Mall last Sunday in Washington, D.C. --
The Aflac duck takes part in CureFest's Walk for a Cure for Children's Cancer at the National Mall last Sunday in Washington, D.C. -- Kevin Wolf/AP images for Aflac

No one can argue that Aflac and its duck have been great for the Columbus workforce and community as a whole, as well as those fortunate enough to have invested in the supplemental insurer all these years.

After all, the company headquartered on Wynnton Road, with its Paul S. Amos campus in east Columbus, enjoys a local employee base approaching 4,000. And it racks up more than $21 billion in revenue each year from its business in the U.S. and Japan. Need we say its stock price also has been hovering in the mid-$70 range for several weeks.

Aflac and its employees, however, take their monetary and humanitarian contributions to yet another level when it comes to the basic cause of fighting childhood cancer. It was just last year that the company disclosed it and its employees and sales agents have given more than $100 million in the hard-fought battle over roughly two decades.

It also has adopted the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and each year raises money through the sale of plush Aflac ducks at department store retailer Macy’s.

The philanthropic wing of the Fortune 500 company was at it again last weekend at the National Mall in Washington, D.C, participating as a sponsor in CureFest, a grassroots organization that aims to make finding a cure for childhood cancer a visible priority in our nation. The goal is to give the deadly illness attention by uniting the public, elected leaders, physicians and researchers.

(CureFest on Facebook)

“Until recently, the childhood cancer community has struggled to find its voice because thousands of foundations and groups are spread out across the country and are not integrating their messages,” said Emily Belcher, organizer of CureFest and mother of a child suffering from cancer. “As a result, the impact of their work has been diffused. We need to combine our efforts.”

Despite declining cancer rates among children, there will be about 10,380 cases of cancer diagnosed this year in the U.S, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 1,250 of them won’t survive, it said, with the dominant types of cancer including acute lymphocytic leukemia, those of the brain and central nervous system, and neuroblastoma. Yet, less than 5 percent of funding nationally goes to research that can discover a possible cure, said CureFest, citing the Children’s Cancer Fund.

Aflac’s senior vice president of corporate communications Catherine Hernandez-Blades said the company’s participation in CureFest was the right thing to do in an effort to “elevate the national dialogue” surrounding childhood cancer and the awareness and funding it should receive.

“If you make one visit to the Aflac Cancer Center in Atlanta or any hospital that treats children battling cancer, you will quickly realize the heroic fight that these children wage with this disease every day,” she said.

CureFest began with a group of speakers and a candlelight vigil and walk to the White House gates on Sept. 17. The following day at the National Mall was a mix of festive activities, information and a special “Walk for a Cure for Children’s Cancer” in which the Aflac duck waddled.

In the end, it was Aflac putting its actions where its heart lies and using its corporate prominence to encourage others to do so as well. That’s impact.