|Gabriella Miller died from brain cancer at the age of 10 last October. She became a vocal and high-profile cancer research advocate in the final year of her life. Courtesy Photo/Facebook, Smashing Walnuts|
The U.S. Senate this morning passed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act to increase funding for pediatric cancer research. The bill now heads to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature.
The legislation is named in honor of a 10-year-old Loudoun County girl who died from brain cancer last October.
The bipartisan measure, which passed the House last December, proposes to authorize $13 million per year for 10 years for pediatric research by redirecting funds designated for political party conventions. Additionally, to ensure the funds are spent on pediatric research, the bill establishes the Pediatric Research Initiative Fund.
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 legislation was named by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.-7th), who met with Millers parents to discuss the issue.
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."
"When people would remark that Gabriella was wise beyond her years, she would tell them that having a brain tumor means you have to grow up real fast," U.S. Rep. Cantor said today. "And so a 10-year-old girl was battling for more pediatric research at the same time she battled for her life.”
Both of Virginia's senators, Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D), were vocal advocates of the bill.
“I’m proud we were able to pass this legislation that honors Gabriella Miller, her family, and her inspiring work as an advocate for pediatric disease research. I applaud the leadership of my fellow Richmonder Eric Cantor in moving this bill through the House,” Sen. Kaine said.
Sen. Warner remarked, "I think we all can agree that pediatric research should be a higher national priority than funding national political conventions."
In her final year, Gabriella became a regional hero and well-known titan for childhood cancer awareness.
In December 2012, following her diagnosis, Gabriella mobilized people across the nation to write 240,000 letters to Santa, dropping them off at Macy's to raise $240,000 dollars for the Make-a-Wish foundation, which prompted Macy's to add $25,000 to the donation.
Named Loudoun County's 2012 volunteer of the year, Gabriella was frequently featured on local and national news outlets. In her final months, she wrote a children's book on cancer, spoke in Washington, D.C., traveled to Paris on a Make-a-Wish trip and earned an honorary degree from Shenandoah University.
Eventually, the Millers decided to start a cancer awareness foundation of their own. They called it Smashing Walnuts, an homage to the hours the Millers spent destroying walnuts, meant to signify them beating Gabriella's nut-sized tumor.
Times-Mirror Staff Writer Alanna Dvorak contributed to this report.
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