|House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) stands with Ellyn and Mark Miller Dec. 11 after the House passed pediatric medical research legislation named after the Miller’s late daughter, Gabriella. Photo Courtesy/Facebook, Smashing Walnuts|
If you thought you'd heard the last from Gabriella Miller when the 10-year-old lost her battle with cancer in October, you failed to grasp the resounding persistence and strength of the heroic young lady.
As you may know – as you should know – Miller spent much of the final year of life as a titan for childhood cancer research. She pleaded for lawmakers to do “less talking” and “more doing.” Miller shook and sobbed in front of the cameras filming a documentary about her. “It's not fair,” she said.
Among Gabriella's biggest protestations: That just 4 percent of $5 billion in cancer research funds go toward childhood cancers.
It doesn't make life any more fair, and it won't bring back Gabriella, but on Wednesday lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act.
The Gabriella Miller legislation proposes to authorize $13 million per year for 10 years for pediatric research by redirecting funds designated for political party conventions. In addition, to ensure that the funds are spent on pediatric research, the bill establishes the Pediatric Research Initiative Fund.
Gabriella is certain to be “beaming from heaven,” her mother, Ellyn Miller, told CNN in a segment earlier this week.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.-10th), Loudoun County's representative, was one of 153 House co-sponsors of the bill that passed the harshly-divided chamber 295-103.
“The bill before us today will help supplement existing National Institutes of Health research efforts for childhood cancers and disorders by creating a 10-year Pediatric Research Initiative Fund paid for with the remaining Presidential Election Campaign Fund,” Wolf said on the House floor. “I hope her parents, Mark and Ellyn, who are here today, her younger brother, Jake, and her family and friends know of the remarkable impact she has had on community and families nationwide.”'
Those who opposed, all but one being a Democrat, argued the legislation was a publicity stunt to shift attention away from how much funding has been cut to the National Institutes of Health.
The legislation was introduced in May by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-3rd-Miss.). After learning of Miller's story, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-7th–Va.) reached out to the Gabriella's parents, met with them and suggested naming Harper's bill in Gabriella's honor.
On the House floor, Cantor said the bill "puts into practice what [he] hopes we can all agree on, which is to place a priority on pediatric medical research over political party convention."
Remarked Harper in a prepared statement, “Recent scientific research breakthroughs linking Fragile X Syndrome and autism have given hope to individuals and their families. In order for clinical trials – and other advancements – to meet their full potential, adequate federal resources must be directed to pediatric research.”
Mark Miller, Gabriella's father, said Wednesday was "quite an amazing day" for his family.
"To sit in the House gallery and listen to members of Congress speak so highly of your daughter during debate is overwhelming," Mark Miller stated on the Facebook page for Smashing Walnuts, the pediatric cancer foundation Gabriella launched after learning her brain tumor was about the size of a walnut in 2012. "Gabriella would have been thrilled with the events of the day (especially seeing a mega-sized photo of herself on the House floor.) Prior to the proceedings, we were stopped by a random person in the halls who called us by name having recognized us from television."
And so continues the legacy of Gabriella the great. Expect to hear more.