Gear up for the 2022 Nationwide Pet Insurance Pet Cancer Awareness Walk

dvm360dvm360 November 2022
Volume 53
Issue 11
Pages: 18

Virtual walk taking place throughout November in light of National Pet Cancer Awareness Month

All images display furry and human participants from previous Pet Cancer Awareness Walks (Photo courtesy of the Animal Cancer Foundation).

All images display furry and human participants from previous Pet Cancer Awareness Walks (Photo courtesy of the Animal Cancer Foundation).

November marks National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. To raise awareness for the cause and help advance research in this field, the annual Nationwide Pet Cancer Awareness Walk, sponsored by Nationwide Pet Insurance, in partnership with the Animal Cancer Foundation (ACF), launched November 1, 2022, and will run through November 30, 2022.

This is the 12th year Nationwide has supported ACF during Pet Cancer Awareness Month, and the third year the challenge is taking place virtually via the WoofTrax mobile app. This empowers anyone anywhere to get involved, and as Cheryl Steinhauer, director of development at ACF, said, “We’re all walking our dogs anyway, so we might as well log on to the WoofTrax app and help lead to a cure.” Once participants enroll in the Nationwide Pet Cancer Awareness Walk in the app, it records their mileage as they walk or run with their dog, and Nationwide donates 25 cents to Animal Cancer Foundation for each mile.

Additionally, ACF enlisted longtime supporter of the organization Renée Felice Smith, renowned actress who played Nell Jones on NCIS: Los Angeles, as the ceremonial grand marshal to build excitement.

Supporting cancer research

ACF is a 501(c)(3) organization that funds comparative oncology research, the aim being that if we better understand canine cancer, we can understand human cancer better as well and make significant strides toward a cure in both realms. For the Nationwide Pet Cancer Awareness Walk, Nationwide is Animal Cancer Foundation’s title sponsor, but more of the foundation’s charitable corporate partners are pledging donations in support of the research the organization funds.

Barbara Cohen, MS, executive director at ACF, shared, “Our biggest project is for canine cancer genomic research and the Canine Cancer Genome Project [sponsored with an inaugural gift from Blue Buffalo Foundation]. That’s a multimillion-dollar project of several institutions to map cancer genomes and dogs, and place that information into a shared cancer research dataset so every researcher can look at that."

“I describe it as like tic-tac-toe. You have the human cancer genome, and you have very similar cancers with dogs. As you start to decode these things and match them up side by side, you can see what’s similar and what’s different, and what works and what does not more quickly with [this] research,” she added.

Multifaceted benefits of the walk

Along with contributing to a good cause, engaging in the walk encourages participants to exercise more regularly with their dog, benefiting both the pet owner and their pup. “I participated in [the walk] myself, while I was running it on behalf of the organization. From a personal experience of using the [WoofTrax] app and walking toward a cause that I could feel passionate about, every day of that challenge period, I really got outside with my dogs,” said Cohen. “It was a health booster because we went further because we’re motivated by that little map [tracking mileage], and [the] dogs benefited by dropping a little weight that I know our veterinarians want them to lose.”

Cohen added that it also offers participants the opportunity to invite friends to join the cause, whether that’s walking or making a donation. “It was amazing to me, the interaction from [encouraging friends to join the challenge], and the circles of influence that we all have in and around our pets that we don’t think about until we actually do something like this.”

This year’s goals

“The sky is the limit,” Steinhauer said of the ACF’s goals for this year’s Nationwide Pet Cancer Awareness Walk. She noted that at last year’s event, 322,000 walks were taken throughout the challenge. Cohen would like to see millions taken this year.

Along with hoping that many get involved, the duo believes the funds can ultimately help contribute to research finding cures for canine and human cancer. “We’re all taking the positive step that we can. I’m a big believer that positivity begets positivity....We can push toward a cure if we’re working together,” concluded Cohen.

Get involved

Participants can enroll in the Nationwide Pet Cancer Awareness Walk challenge via WoofTrax and select a local shelter to walk for. Then, leash up a dog and log in to track miles. Those without a pet can take part in the challenge with a virtual dog assigned by WoofTrax.

Other ways to get involved include making a donation to ACF, supporting an individual or team fundraiser, and encouraging others to join the challenge.

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