The Childhood Cancer Ribbon: Why We Use Gold

On the final day of September, we honor the gold ribbon for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Childhood cancer is an unfortunate and horrific reality for thousands of families all over the world. Cancer is currently the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14 (1). 

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO), globally there are more than 400,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year, with an estimated 15,780 of these children living within the US (2). Many of us know a person who has had or has been directly affected by childhood cancer. 

Similar to how the pink ribbon is associated with breast cancer awareness, a gold ribbon is used as the international awareness symbol for childhood cancers. Why or how was the gold ribbon  chosen to represent childhood cancer? We’re here to give you a little background information on the gold ribbon, along with some ideas for how you can help support the fight for childhood cancer and “Go Gold”!

Why Does the Gold Ribbon Represent Childhood Cancer?

You may be surprised to learn the gold ribbon has been the universal symbol of childhood cancer for well over 20 years. In 1997, a group of parents whose lives were affected by childhood cancer and a board member from the American Childhood Cancer Organization (Originally the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation) chose the gold ribbon as the official symbol to encompass all types of childhood cancers. According to the ACCO’s website, the color gold was ideal as “gold is a precious metal, and is therefore the perfect color to reflect the most precious thing in our lives—our children.” (3)

The gold ribbon was designed to honor all children who have gone through or are currently undergoing cancer treatments, their families, caregivers, medical staff, and any volunteers working within the childhood cancer community.

Types of Childhood Cancer

One thing that makes the ribbon for childhood cancer unique is that it does not represent one specific type of cancer; It encompasses all types of cancers that affect children. Below is a list of the most common forms of childhood cancers.

  • Leukemia - Accounts for 28% of childhood cancer diagnoses. This form of cancer affects the bone marrow cells, causing the growth of abnormal white blood which then hurts the body’s ability to fight off viruses and infections. 
  • Brain and Spinal Cord Cancers - Accounts for about 26% of childhood cancer cases. Most brain tumors in children start in the lower parts of the brain or brain stem. Common symptoms include severe headaches, vision problems, and walking or balance problems.
  • Neuroblastoma - Accounts for about 6% of childhood cancers. This form of cancer normally begins in the adrenal glands but can also develop in the nerve tissues.
  • Wilms tumor - Most often found in children 3 to 4 years old and accounts for about 5% of childhood cancer diagnoses. Symptoms include high blood pressure, night sweats, and unexplained fevers.
  • Lymphoma (including both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin) - Hodgkin Lymphoma accounts for about 3% of childhood cancers while non-Hodgkin lymphoma accounts for 5% of childhood cancers. Both forms of lymphoma include symptoms such as abdominal swelling, unexplained weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, and an overall weak or tired feeling (4).

How You Can Do Your Part to Raise Awareness and Help Children with Cancer

You can contribute or inspire others to Go Gold with these ideas:

Make a Donation

Making a donation is a simple and effective way to help children with cancer. There are several ways that you can donate:

  • Donate Money - If possible, consider offering a monetary contribution. Hospitals and organizations are always accepting donations for various expenses and research. Many organizations offer the option for a one time, monthly, or annual contribution. 
  • Donate Gift Baskets - From the initial testing, diagnosis, treatments, and so on, children diagnosed with cancer will possibly spend just as much time in the hospital as at their own home (if not more). To help make the transition easier, create gift baskets filled with coloring books, crayons, silly socks, cozy blankets, and any other comforting or fun items. 
  • Donate HeadwearMany of us are not aware of how much heat is lost through the top of the head. For children, this can be especially daunting as they may be more prone to catching colds, due to an under developed and compromised immune system. Donating hats for kids will help keep children comfortable and confident during treatments.
  • Donate Blood - Regularly donating blood is a wonderful way to help others. As hospitals treating children with cancer require several hundred units of red blood cells and platelets every day, your contribution is especially invaluable.

Volunteer

Donating your time and energy to childhood cancer is another great way to honor the gold ribbon.

  • Volunteer at Local Hospitals and Charities- Many hospitals are always looking for help with events and fundraisers. 
  • Look for Events Near Your Area - A simple Google search can easily give you a run down of local walks, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities. 
  • Plan an Event or Fundraiser - Not seeing any local fundraisers? Plan your own! Contact a local hospital or organization to get the ball rolling. There are all kinds of activities you can plan, from a fun run to bowling or even a breakfast/lunch/dinner event. Reach out to local businesses for sponsorship.

Spread Around the Gold Ribbon

Simply showing your support for childhood cancer can make a difference.

  • Change Your Profile Picture to a Gold Ribbon While changing your profile picture on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/etc does not sound like you’re making a difference, you are. Even this small change can lead to a positive chain of events, starting with your family and friends performing their own research and ending with them also doing their part to draw more attention to the cause, or even possibly donating their time and funds.
  • Make a Fashion Statement- Wearing T-shirts and accessories or t-shirts with gold ribbons are a fabulous reminder and conversation starter.

To sum up...

September is Childhhood Cancer Awareness Month, but there are things we can do to honor the Gold Ribbon everyday of the month. Consider volunteering or donating to help our children, who are even more precious than gold.


References:

  1. American Childhood Cancer Organization. “About ACCO.” https://www.acco.org/about/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2020.
  2. American Childhood Cancer Organization. “Childhood Cancer Statistics.” https://www.acco.org/childhood-cancer-statistics/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2020.
  3. American Childhood Cancer Organization. “History of ACCO.” https://www.acco.org/gold-ribbon-awareness/. Accessed 15 Sept. 2020.
  4. American Cancer Society. “Types of Cancer that Develop in Children.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-in-children/types-of-childhood-cancers.html. Accessed 15 Sept. 2020.