Dena Battle, the onetime House staffer turned tax lobbyist, is taking on an entirely new role as co-founder and president of the fundraising-centric Kidney Cancer Research Alliance, or KCCure.
The dramatic career change — Battle quit Capitol Counsel in order to focus on the fledgling nonprofit — is the latest step in the life-changing journey she set upon in 2009 when her husband, GOP communications aide Chris Battle, was diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer.
“We met on Capitol Hill,” Battle said of the romance that blossomed while she was serving as legislative director for retired lawmaker and lymphoma survivor Dave Camp of Michigan and Chris was assisting former Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas with messaging.
As they wrestled with Chris’ illness, a 4½-year ordeal the duo chronicled on a deeply personal blog , Dena said she became very involved in “navigating the patient community.”
After Chris’ passing in 2013, she turned her attention to advocacy, lending her voice to the advisory board for the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Patient and Family Advisory Council, as well as staying in touch with Chris’ oncologist, Dr. Hans Hammers.
Earlier this year, she and Hammers got to talking about the dearth of financial resources for cancer researchers. She said they both bemoaned the lack of a “competitive grant process,” and subsequently resolved to remedy the puzzling situation.
“KCCure was formed to address a significant void in funding and resources for kidney cancer research, which is critically needed to ensure everyone diagnosed with this disease has the best possible chance for survival,” Hammers said in an official release.
Battle said the group’s mission is to raise money from grassroots donors — “We’re not looking for federal funding. Though we’ll take it if we get it,” she said — and then make available that pool of capital to those “focused on cutting-edge, innovative scientific research in kidney cancer.”
On the one hand, Battle is concerned about the effect renal cell carcinoma, a common form of kidney cancer, is having on the general population. She estimated that 60,000 individuals will be diagnosed this year and that roughly 14,000 of those cases will prove fatal.
The fact that Chris’ grandfather also succumbed to kidney cancer has Battle very worried about what the future might hold for her daughters, Kate and Josie.
“I have no way of knowing if they’re at risk for this,” she said. “There’s no way to test for it.”
Which is why she’s reaching out to her entire universe of connections, from colleagues to the cancer community, to join the fundraising fight.
“Anybody I know is getting this,” she said of her planned outreach, adding, “I don’t have big money. But I’ve got big ideas.”
She’s hoping the “No Tie July” campaign will get D.C. denizens to loosen up for the summer.
Participants are encouraged to post pictures of deliberately open collars to grow support for the cause on social media. Pledging at least $1 a day to KCCure throughout the month would help fortify the philanthropic side.
Battle said she’s kicking around other ideas — “getting ties banned on the House floor” was one contender — to build momentum leading into the party conventions.
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