ACS: new SL volunteer structure – Growth, Service, and Outreach

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has a long and distinguished history of fund-raising to help those with cancer, their families and their caregivers not only in the United States but the world over. ACS is perhaps most widely recognised for the Second Life Relay for Life season with its mainstream events: the kick-off weekend, the main weekend, and the mega events such as Fantasy Faire, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, the Science Fiction convention and so on.

This 2018 in-world season for ACS has been one marked by a number of changes, all of represent the first step in a multi-phase plan to shape the future of the American Cancer Society in Second Life and in virtual spaces beyond. For example, for 2018, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (MSABC) is launching a new approach to breast cancer fund-raising in Second Life,with not one, but two month-long events running throughout the month of October: the Parade of Homes, and the Out-Shop Cancer event. In addition, MSABC will also host the “5K” walk, where walkers can collect donation pledges for the amount of laps walked around a pink-ribbon track.

Also, earlier in 2018, the Fantasy Faire team raised over US $50,000 to help with the Kenyatta Hospital Hope Hostel project in Kenya (see: Fantasy Faire 2018: supporting the KNH Hope Hostel). Going forward, ACS plan to allow volunteers and fun-raisers to have more opportunities to directly affect specific global projects, while additional focus will be placed on establishing new partnerships with businesses both in and out of Second Life, helping the ACS volunteers communities grow and increasing outreach efforts to let cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers know that they have a place to turn for support, without having to leave Second Life.

Artist rendering of the Hope Hostel in Kenya, the focus of the 2018 Fantasy Faire fund-raising programme. Credit: Kenyatta National Hospital website

As a part of this planning, ACS is both refocusing it in-world efforts, to both enhance existing activities and events and to offer a new range of opportunities and programmes in world to assistance and support to anyone facing cancer either directly or as a caregiver or family / friends.

In addition, ACS is asking all of those who have supported their work as a volunteer, or who wishes to join the ranks of ACS volunteers to take a moment to find out more about the restructuring and refocusing (see below), and complete the ACS in SL Volunteer Form.

During the next few weeks, we want to offer everyone the opportunity to express interest in being involved with any of the areas identified…or offer suggestions for something that you don’t see reflected in this structure

Stingray Raymaker,  Director of the American Cancer Society in Second Life
on the call for volunteers and supporter to indicate their interest in supporting ACS activities in Second Life

The refocusing is summarised in the images seen at the top of this article, which outlines the key areas of ACS focus – existing and new -, which are also summarised as:

  • Support, Outreach, Advocacy Team: providing overall vision and strategic guidance for the American Cancer Society in Second Life, including developing and executing outreach strategy for recruitment of new volunteers, new partnerships, new relationships, events, etc. Also advocates on behalf of all teams within the ACS volunteer structure.
  • Partnerships: working with volunteers to meet & discuss partnership opportunities for all areas within the ACS in Second Life. Provides strategic consulting and fundraising coaching to volunteers in Second Life.
  • Research: investigating ways to help identify opportunities for all areas within the ACS in Second Life.
  • Mega Events: consulting with the RFL mega events teams, identifying potential events, and fostering growth, when appropriate.
  • Media: establishing and maintain relationships with media partners, providing back and forth communication of needs, assets, and expectations.
  • RFL Season Lead: coordinating tasks associated with the execution of the RFL of SL season, from pre-kickoff until event weekend.
  • RFL Event Lead: coordinating the tasks associated with the execution of the RFL of SL event weekend.
  • ACS Island Design: establishing ACS island as a destination experience that features the services offered by the ACS in Second Life.
  • ACS Island Event: managing the calendar of events for ACS Island; booking performances, recruiting merchants for stores, and promoting ACS island events to the grid.
  • Hope Haven Survivor Group: fulfilling the new vision for Hope Haven Survivor Support, working with ACS team to promote Survivor Support Group to the grid as a place for cancer patients and survivors to receive support from one another.
  • Hope Haven Caregiver Group: fulfilling the new vision for Hope Haven Caregiver group, working with ACS team to promote Caregiver group to the grid as a place for education and information for caregivers. Also produces interactive experiences that educates residents on cancer information and support.
  • Hope Haven Memorial Garden: managing the memorial garden experience on the American Cancer Society island.
  • Community Gateway Story: developing and writing the story that will be used to teach/train new users in Second Life on how to use the platform.
  • Community Gateway Design: coordinating the design tasks in order to build the Community Gateway learning environment, as defined by the story.
  • Community Gateway Host: leading and coordinating the hosting tasks for the Community Gateway, ensuring that new users are welcomed, supported, encouraged, and have a friend along their journey. Also provides recommendations for groups and communities to join, as well as offering ACS volunteer opportunities, when appropriate.
  • MSABC 5K Walk: coordinating the tasks related to the MSABC 5K walk event in Second Life.
  • Parade of Homes: coordinating the tasks related to the annual Parade of Homes breast cancer event in Second Life.
  • Out Shop Cancer: coordinating the tasks related to the Out-Shop Cancer breast cancer event in Second Life.

It is Stingray Raymaker’s hope that by initiating and growing the new events and activities within this list while continue to grow and enhance the existing range of events fostered by Relay for Life in Second Life, the American Cancer Society will be seen as the premier destination experience for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and their families and friends worldwide. A place where they can find support, answers, education, and resources to help one another and anyone facing cancer wherever they are in the world and on the grid.

via Stingray Raymaker and the RFL of SL website.

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Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 2018 in Second Life

via Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life MSABC), and to celebrate, the MSABC team are running not one, but two major events through their primary fund-raising month of October, with registrations for both now open through until mid-August.

The two events, the Out Shop Cancer Shopping Event and the 2018 Strides Parade of Homes in SL. will both run from October 1st through 31st, 2018, and you can find out more about both below.

Out Shop Cancer Shopping Event

via Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life

The Out Shop Cancer Shopping Event expands on the traditional fund-raising shopping event, by taking participating shoppers out across the gird to the main stores of participating creators and merchants, rather than offering limited space for stalls and shoppers within an event region.

Participating stores are required to have at least one MSABC vendor and / or gacha with proceeds going to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Second Life. Two vendors types will be available: 100% of proceeds to MSABC and a 50% split between the store and MSABC. A registration fee for participation is also  applicable, and registration and sponsorship fees are non-refundable.

Shoppers will be able to visit participating stores either via a special MSABC teleport HUD, or via a web-based shopping guide with SLurls.

Merchants wishing to participate should note that space on the HUD is limited, and offered on a first come, first serve, basis. However, all participating stores will be listed on the MSABC web shopping guide, and via social media channels and in-world note cards. Participating designers will be listed on a board during official Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Second Life events.

There will be a special means for SL Marketplace only stores to participate in the event. For full details on the event, including how to participate from the SL Marketplace, please use the following MSABC links:

*** Merchant registration and fees are due by August 15, 2018 ***

via Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Across Second Life

2018 Strides Parade of Homes in Second Life

The 2018 Strides Parade of Homes in Second Life will take people on a tour of some of Second Life’s newest Dream Homes, decorated by top Second Life home decor specialists, with beautiful landscaping features from top Second Life garden and landscaping pros. So, whether you are ready for a change or move in Second Life or planning for the new year, Parade of Homes gives you the opportunity to get everything you need for your SL dreams while supporting MSABC.

The event invites all Second Life builders, interior designers, and home and garden creators to show off their incredible talent. There is a non-refundable fee of L$1000 for participation as a builder / landscaper, and combining talents (builder, landscaper and interior designer is encouraged among participants, Builds can be any size from fitting on a 1024 up to a mansion, and  skyboxes are included.

Participating builds are to be hosted in the location / store determined by those presenting them, and must be available for the entire month of October 2018. All participating builds / designs will be included on a MSABC Parade of Homes HUD, enabling shoppers / customers, etc., to visit them.

For full details on the event builders, landscapers and designers should refer to the following MSABC links:

*** Merchant registration and fees are due by August 15, 2018 ***

About MSABC

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer or MSABC is the largest network of breast cancer awareness events in the United States, uniting more than 300 communities to finish the fight. Every breast cancer walk and event is an incredible and inspiring opportunity to honour those who have battled breast cancer, raise awareness about what we can do to reduce our breast cancer risk, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society fight the disease with research, information, services, and access to mammograms for women who need them.

 

2018 Home and Garden Expo in Second Life

The 10th Home and Garden Expo (HGE) in support of Relay for Life of Second Life and the American Cancer Society, is currently open, and will remain so until Saturday, June 2nd, 2018. Taking place across seven (Home Expo 1 through 6 and Expo Centre) regions, the event offers some of the finest in home, garden, and furnishing designs available across the grid, as well as a range of breedables and breedable accessories.

With over 100 exhibitors taking part, the event offers something for anyone who is looking for a new home, ideas for furnishing and decor, wishing to improve their building (or other) skills, or who just wishes to keep abreast of the latest building / home trends in Second Life.

Home and Garden Expo 2018

Throughout the Expo there will be a range of events and activities, including entertainment and dancing, classes, gachas, talks and discussions, an art show (with pieces by Your’s Truly – all proceed from their sale to RFL of SL), a market, an auction, and more.

RFL Awareness Hunt

This year’s hunt allows participants to explore the Expo regions and visit the twenty Awareness kiosks where they can learn about the different types of cancer. There are also hand prints and ribbons to collect, which denote which kiosks you’ve visited and decorate the tree on the Hunt HUD (available for L$250 from hunt vendors). In addition, the Awareness kiosks may award participants an additional random prize.

When you’ve visited all twenty of the Awareness kiosks, hunt participants will receive an Meeroo avatar.

Home and Garden Expo Map (click for full size)

Decorating Competition

*Entry applications close Monday, May 21st*

Twelve homes have been set-up on Home Expo 6, in six different styles by six different builders. The twelve entrants in the competition will be given an allowance of 500 prims (/Land Impact) with which to decorate their home and its garden.

Each contestant can decorate in any style they wish that suits their house, but they must include at least three items purchased from RFL vendors at the Home and Garden Expo. All houses must be decorated by Saturday, May 26th, 2018. Thereafter, from Sunday, May 27th through Friday, June 1st, 2018 visitors to the Expo will be able to vote on which house and garden they like best.

The breakdown of prizes has yet to be announced, but the overall prize pot, at the time of writing this article, stood at L$35,000.

Visit the competition page to enter – and remember, applications must be made by the end of Monday, May 21st, 2018.

Lantern Releases and Luminaria

Every day of the Expo at 16:00 SLT, lanterns will be released from the Expo Reflection Centre, in honour of all those afflicted by cancer.

The reflection area is also the place where you can light a luminaria lantern in memory of a loved one or in support of one fighting cancer now.

Home and Garden Expo Reflection Centre

With so much to see, it is likely that more than one visit might be required to see all of the designs and gardens – and with the number of exhibitors, pointing to specific creators is a little unfair. I therefore suggest that should you go, start your visit at the central Expo Center region – and then work your way around the regions using that as your anchor point.

About the Expo

The Home and Garden Expo raises money for Relay For Life of Second Life (RFL of SL). Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fund-raising event, and RFL of SL is one of its virtual counterparts. You can find more information about RFL of SL at the official website.

Expo exhibitors are required to have two 100% donation items at the Expo. These items must be new and exclusive to the Expo for the duration of the event.

100% of registration fees, sponsorship fees and donation items are paid to Relay For Life of Second Life. 50% of the proceeds from the gachas will be paid to RFL and 100% of the L$10 hunt items.

Links

SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

The 2018 Second Life Sci-Fi Expo touched-down safely on the main grid on Saturday May 12th, 2018 ready to embark Second Life residents on flights of intergalactic adventure and fancy which will continue through until Sunday, May 20th, 2018.

Active across four regions this year, the convention once again presents a broad range of science-fiction related role-play and content, all bound together in the aim of raising funds for Relay for Life of Second Life and the American Cancer Society.

In addition, the event features a range of entertainment and presentations. So much is going on through the week in fact, that the best way of staying up-to-date on things is to check the convention’s event calendar (don’t be confused by it being referred to as the 2017 calendar). This can also be found at strategic points scattered throughout the convention’s regions on browsable display boards, so keeping up-to-speed on where to go and what to see is pretty easy.

SL Sci-Fi Expo 2018

If I’m totally honest, the convention seemed – on visiting and in viewing the website – a lot more subdued this year than in previous years. I’m not aware of any significant themes to the region, outside of Land of the Giants for the central (“hub”?) region; there doesn’t appear to be a list of exhibitors this year, and the website itself – at the time of writing does not appear to have been updated since May 5th, 2018.

Within the regions themselves, traffic was high during my two visits, while Star Trek appears to have the largest presence in terms of the number of booths etc – which is not to say the event is in any way exclusive to Trek; there are a fair few TARDIS telephone boxes scattered around and the odd Viper and Cylon Raider can be seen, as well as a Marvel Comics hero or two. Do be aware, when visiting, that several of the exhibition booths have teleporters leading elsewhere – so if some see a little devoid of information, this could be the reason why.

So, as I’m prone to say when previewing this event: whatever your interest in science fiction, be sure to set your phaser on fun and head back to the future with a visit to the SL Sci-Fi convention.

SLurl Details

Fantasy Faire 2018: you can still complete the Quest

Ardessa: the Fantasy Faire 2018 Quest region by Éclair Martinek

Fantasy Faire 2018 has reached the final weekend of its extended run. Sadly, I’ve not been able to cover this year’s event as much as in the past: a hectic schedule and other elements in my physical world activities have combined to limit my SL availability.

While it is the final weekend, for those interested, there is still the opportunity to participate in the Fairelands Quest and obtain a cache of prizes – and a weekend is more than enough time to complete the tasks you’ll face.

As with previous years, The House of Garland asks adventurers to come to the assistance of the Fairelands and the Bard Queen in order to bring a stop of the Unweaver’s dark doings. And this time – as the time-honoured saying goes – it’s personal. Also in keeping with previous years, the Quest in a multi-part activity; however it doesn’t need to be completed all at once; you can take a break from things and tackle the adventures over a couple of day if you wish.

The first act of participating in the Quest is to obtain a Quest HUD, such a via the vendors at the Fairelands Junction. Two versions are available: the basic L$250 version and the L$350 version which includes a set of costumes for those who wish to get into character. Both also provide an introductory note card which provides enough information to get started.

When you have worn the HUD, and if you have not previously undertaken a Fairelands Quest, accept the Experience via the dialogue box that also appears on your screen. You’ll only have to do this once, and it is vital you do so; the Quest will not work if you don’t. If you’ve previously participated in a Fairelands Quest (and have not revoked the Quest permissions), you’ll be automatically accepted into The House of Garland adventure.

Ardessa: the Fantasy Faire 2018 Quest region by Éclair Martinek

Also to be found in the Quest package  is a note card that should get you started on your adventure. This will unfold in a series of steps:

  • Locate the Bard Queen herself – she is somewhere in Fairelands Junction, and will give you further information to help you get started.
  • Meet Cheer, the squire who will provide you with company and more. Cheer is an NPC included with your Quest HUD and should be worn with the HUD, but she’ll not become visible until you actually encounter her in Fairelands Junction.
  • Locate the Archetypes in the Fairelands. There is one Archetype per region, and the HUD will help you identify them. Note that Archetypes can only be found in public areas of the regions – they will not be instead any stores. They can also be sought in any order, and each will provide you with further assistance.
  • Travel to Ardessa, the Quest region. You should only do this once you have located all the archetypes. Once in Ardessa, seek the gates within the region in order to progress towards completing your adventure. Note that with one exception, the gates can be sought in any order; should you happen upon the exception before you have found all the other gates, it will simply tell you to seek those you have not found.
There Be Dragons! Ardessa, the Fantasy Faire Quest region

Unlike more recent previous Quest regions at the Fairelands, Ardessa is a verdant land, rich in flora and fauna, full of the colours of summer. Designed by Éclair Martinek, it offers a wooded and sometimes rugged landscape with many paths to follow and things to discover. As such, it is well worth taking the time to explore, whether or not you are engaged on the Fairelands Quest (if you simply chose to explore, the Quest won’t interfere with you).

So while there is still time, why not visit Ardessa, or get your teeth into the Fantasy Faire 2018 Quest? All proceeds from the sale of HUDs go you RFL of SL, and there’s a generous range of prizes to be claimed!

Relay for Life: don’t avoid hearing the “C” word

Second Life is in the midst of the 2018 Relay for Life season, most notably (at the time of writing) with Fantasy Faire. Given that it is, I would like to step to one side from my usual writing and offer a personal piece on the subject of cancer. It’s something I’ve spent a couple of days wrestling over committing to print, and I’m now doing so not to illicit sympathy, but to hopefully offer insight into why it’s better to confront things then shy away from things out of fear of hearing the “c” word.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ – in my left breast. This is a form of best cancer where the cancerous cells are contained within the milk ducts of the breast. Because the cancer cells have not invaded nearby breast tissue, DCIS is regarded as non-invasive breast cancer, and accounts for about 20% of all breast cancer cases, and around 85% of all in-situ (confined to a specific area) forms of breast cancer.

While there is a risk it might become invasive if left untreated (the American Cancer Society estimate between 20-53% of untreated in-situ cancer cases become invasive over a period of about a decade), DCIS can be dealt with in a relatively straightforward manner through what amounts to a two-step treatment process.

The first step is for the affected area of breast duct to be surgically removed in a localised procedure referred to as a lumpectomy. This is a form of surgery designed to excise the affected area, and as a rule leaves the breast looking as close as possible to how it did before surgery, with its general shape and the nipple area remaining intact.

After a period of healing, the second step is generally followed by a period of localised radiotherapy. This is designed to destroy any remaining cancer cells that would otherwise by too small to see on scans or to measure with lab tests. In addition, it can lower both the risk of DCIS returning to the breast, or of the breast developing an invasive cancer later in life.

Ductal carcinoma in situ is a form of breast cancer in which the cancer cells are confined within the milk ducts of the breast

Obviously, “surgery” and “radiotherapy” are themselves terrifying words; but the fact is that often, DCIS can be dealt with on an out-patient basis – there’s no need for a protracted stay in hospital;  while the radiotherapy is localised enough such that the risk of it giving rise to cancer later in life is around 5% – far less a risk than that of the DCIS leading to a more invasive form of cancer.

A key point with DCIS is that it is hard to detect; while it may be indicated by a subcutaneous lump, often it is only through a scan and / or biopsy that it may be identified. In my case, I noticed a small lump in my right breast; when it hadn’t gone away after a number of weeks, I went to see my GP.

I admit, my feelings were mixed when I did so: cancer has been a frequent visitor within both sides of my family, so I was concerned I would hear the words “breast cancer”; at the same time, there was also a feeling that I was “just being silly” and over-reacting to something that would go away – after all, lumps in the breast can be caused by a lot of non-cancerous events.

In-situ breast cancer types: location and percentage of cases

In fact, the right breast lump did prove to be a small non-cancerous node of breast calcification. However, as a result of the scans my GP sent me to have, the left breast DCIS was spotted.

Cutting a long story short, I was referred for surgery at the cancer unit of a local hospital, where I underwent two bouts of surgery some 14 days apart. The first was to excise the affected ductal area, the second to remove a small amount of tissue from the surrounding area. Both bouts of surgery were performed on an out-patient basis, so I went into hospital in the morning and was back home and in my own bed in the evening.

After the surgery I had several weeks of recovery to allow the surgical wound and the (admittedly extensive) bruising around it to heal. I have been left with a scar marking the entry wound, but the shape of my breast hasn’t changed and as is common with this type of surgery, the scar itself is on the underside of the breast, so it’s not naturally visible.

As to the radiotherapy, I was given 15 sessions broken down over just over three workday weeks, plus an initial “targeting” session a week ahead of the treatment. The treatment took the form of spirometry-monitored deep inspiration breath hold (SMDIBH). Again this sounds a mouthful, and possibly frightening, but what it amounts to is being subjected to a short burst of radiation while controlling you breathing and holding your breath for around 20-30 seconds. This approach is used when treating left breast cancer, as filling the lungs with air raises the breast away from the heart, reducing the amount of radiation to which the heart is exposed.

The treatment itself is quite painless, each “zap” lasting around 20 seconds as the breath is held, with the number of zaps you get varying according to need. However, due to the frequency of the treatment sessions, there are side-effects. These can include fatigue, a swelling in the breast due to fluid being unable to drain properly a reddening and drying of the skin around the treated area, and a gradual feeling of heat build-up in the breast which takes time to dissipate. These symptoms can take several weeks to abate, and the heat / drying of the skin can be treated both during and after radiotherapy by the use of non-metallic moisturising cream. In addition, you may be giving special cooling gell packs to help reduce the heat in the breast.

As I write this, I’m into my second week of post-radiotherapy recovery. I’ll make no bones about it, my breast is sore I’m at times in a little discomfort and have felt lethargic at times – effect that should subside over the next few weeks. However, the preliminary results of the treatment is that the surgery has been successful, and the radiotherapy will have hopefully done its job.

So why tell you all this? Because – as I said at the top, cancer’s biggest weapon is fear – fear of what it might mean if diagnosed and, equally, the fear of learning you have it in the first place. Yet the fact is, as my case hopefully shows, getting diagnosed early enough not only means a better chance of dealing with it – it also means the treatment is often less protracted and invasive than might otherwise be the case (put it this way, while it may well sound worrying when first heard, a lumpectomy is, overall, a lot less traumatic than a mastectomy)  – whereas the longer it is ignored in the hope it might “go away” or because it spares us having to confront it, the greater the risk that it might reach a point were it cannot be more effectively dealt with.

Cancer is not something we can avoid simply by ignoring the signs (when they are present) or by avoiding the opportunity to have it diagnosed. So please, if you have concerns about anything, a lump here or there, a mole-like mark on your skin that has appeared or which has changed in size or has been subject to bleeding – go and get it checked. It might be cancer – or it might be something else entirely; it might be entirely benign. But if you don’t get it checked, you run the risk of not knowing – or of receiving medical help at a time when, should it prove to be cancer, it might be more easily dealt with than might be the case if you just ignore it.

In my case, I’m grateful I didn’t let the feeling of “being silly” when going to see my GP get the better of me; as a woman in my 40’s (no, I’m not saying where in my 40s!) I’m still several years from my first routine breast cancer screenings, possibly time enough for the DCIS to have become more of a problem. As it is, it’s now excised, and I’ll be having regular scans to make sure it stays that way. And that’s a form of peace of mind I’m grateful to have.

So again, if you have a suspicion or concern, don’t leave it for “another day”; go get it seen to.