It’s a unique opportunity for an 11-year-old girl to get to see a bill from its start to watching President Donald Trump sign it into law. But in a way, that bill, the so-called STAR Act, is named for cancer survivor Sadie Keller.
Sadie has been an advocate for the measure by Rep. Michael McCaul for two years. It will step up efforts to identify childhood cancer incidences, improve the quality of life for survivors, and target opportunities to expand research on therapeutics.
It’s the third successful piece of legislation that Sadie has worked on with the Texas Republican.
“I always say Sadie’s my star because I got to know her about three years ago and that’s how long we’ve been working on the STAR Act. All the advocates and the children like Sadie who come up to the Hill to advocate for the bill and three years later — we finally got this done,” McCaul said.
Sadie was diagnosed with leukemia in 2015 when she was 7. Her cancer is now in remission. She first met McCaul in March 2016 when she was on Capitol Hill to lobby. Now, she’s visited the White House, too.
“It was just really amazing and I can’t believe I was actually there,” she said. “It felt like a dream. It was just incredible and I was just so honored to have that opportunity. … I was just so happy because every day, kids are passing away from different types of cancers and it makes me really upset to hear that and I’m glad that this bill will help more kids survive and that’s what I want to try to do. … I like to help kids smile.”
At the signing ceremony Tuesday, Trump addressed Sadie.
“I just couldn’t believe that President Trump was actually talking to me and saying my name and shook my hand,” she said. “It’s a really big deal because it’s the president of the United States, and I’ve seen him all over the news and YouTube sometimes, and it was just like crazy to think that I met him.”
McCaul said Sadie was very poised and talkative and he was thrilled to see her honored.
“One of the advocates said it’s like a fairy tale and Sadie is like the princess in the fairy tale,” he said. “I meet a lot of the kids, and they’re all very special in their own way. But Sadie, the advocates brought her to me, because you can just see the quality of the star power and she was very eloquent with the president.”
Trump gave Keller the signing pen — a Sharpie, McCaul said.
“[Trump] joked about his signature — he goes, ‘Have you ever seen a signature like this?’” the congressman said.
McCaul said he talked to the president’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump about doing a White House signing ceremony “because I thought the children and the advocates deserved that.”
With Sadie’s advocacy, McCaul also helped passed the so-called Creating Hope Act, which provides incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for children with childhood cancers and other diseases, and a bill known as the RACE Act, which allows for innovative adult cancer treatments to be studied so they can be used for children.
The congressman said some people might say that he and Sadie have accomplished their goals. “But I would say we have many more years of work ahead of us, right?” he added, turning to Sadie.
“Just anything else that can help more kids survive,” she replied.
Some of those goals include getting funding for childhood cancer research and possibly working on hospice care options for children with cancer.
“Sadie, unfortunately, she’s had a lot of friends with cancer and some of them haven’t survived and they’re very sad stories. But at least we can have the end of their life with as less pain as possible,” McCaul said.