Newswise — More than 6,000 cancer survivors, their family members and caregivers, and their healthcare teams gathered on the evening of September 13 at MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey for Celebrating Life & Liberty, sharing inspiration and support for cancer survivors and people with cancer who are still in treatment or recovery. The gathering was the largest ever for this annual event, which expanded from John Theurer Cancer Center in Hackensack to now include people from all of Hackensack Meridian Health—the largest integrated healthcare network in New Jersey.

"As advances in cancer treatment continue to be made, people are living longer, healthier lives. It's important to celebrate that not just today, but every day," said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. "To see this many people gather in one place to rejoice and have a great time together—more than we've ever had in the history of this event—is truly inspiring. It is one of the best days of my year."

Attendance at the event has multiplied tenfold since its inception in 2009. "To look back at where this event began and what it has grown to become is very moving for me," noted Andre Goy, M.D., M.S., chairman and director, John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center and the creator of Celebrating Life & Liberty. "I am inspired and proud that it has grown to include the entire Hackensack Meridian Health network, bringing together even more people from throughout the state to share joy, celebrate journeys, and offer each other hope and support."

In addition to survivors sharing their stories in song, poetry, prose, and performance, professional artists energized the diverse crowds with stories of hope and survival. The event united people of all walks of life, where cancer knows no race or religion. Adults and children enjoyed a wide range of activities, including musical performances by The New Yok BeeGees Tribute Band and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players, as well as interactive workshops, arts and crafts, face painters, caricaturists, magicians, lawn games, interactive workshops, and dinner. Cancer advocacy organizations provided information about their services for all aspects of cancer care, support and survivorship.

"Hackensack Meridian Health provides world-class cancer care throughout the state of New Jersey. Patients don't have to go to New York City or Philadelphia anymore to get the advanced research-based care they need," added neuro-oncologist Joseph C. Landolfi, D.O., Diplomat ABPN, Vice Chair, Hackensack Meridian Health JFK Neuroscience Institute and Medical Director, Neuro-Oncology, Hackensack Meridian Health, Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex Counties.

"This event is evidence of how the integration of services across an entire healthcare network in an efficient, multidisciplinary way enables more patients to receive effective cancer care closer to their homes. It was a joy for me to celebrate with them," noted thoracic surgeon Thomas L. Bauer, M.D., FACS, Clinical Medical Director, Oncology, Hackensack Meridian Health and Medical Director, Thoracic Oncology, Hackensack Meridian Health Cancer Care of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.

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ABOUT HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH Hackensack Meridian Health is a leading not-for-profit healthcare organization that is the largest, most comprehensive and truly integrated healthcare network in New Jersey, offering a complete range of medical services, innovative research, and life-enhancing care.

Hackensack Meridian Health comprises 16 hospitals from Bergen to Ocean counties and includes three academic medical centers (Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, and JFK Medical Center in Edison); two children’s hospitals (Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack and K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune); nine community hospitals (Ocean Medical Center in Brick, Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, and Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood); and two rehabilitation hospitals (JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison and Shore Rehabilitation Institute in Brick).

In addition, the network has more than 450 patient care locations throughout the state which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, lifesaving air medical transportation, fitness and wellness centers, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers, and physician practice locations. Hackensack Meridian Health has 33,000 team members and 6,500 physicians and is a distinguished leader in healthcare philanthropy, committed to the health and well-being of the communities it serves.

The network’s notable distinctions include having one of only five major academic medical centers in the nation to receive Healthgrades America’s 50 Best Hospitals Award for five or more consecutive years and four hospitals among the top 10 in New Jersey by U.S. News and World Report. Other honors include consistently achieving Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, receiving the John M. Eisenberg Award for Patient Safety and Quality from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum, and being a six-time recipient of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” one of the “20 Best Workplaces in Health Care” in the nation, and the number one in “Best Places to Work for Women.” The network was also named to Becker’s Healthcare’s “150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare/2018” list.

Hackensack Meridian Health partnered with Seton Hall University to launch Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University — the first private medical school in New Jersey in more than 50 years — to address a growing shortage of physicians and dramatic changes in healthcare delivery. The network also partnered with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to find more cures for cancer faster while ensuring that patients have access to the highest quality, most individualized cancer care when and where they need it. Hackensack Meridian Health and Carrier Clinic, New Jersey’s oldest and most respected behavioral health provider, signed a definitive agreement to merge.

Hackensack Meridian Health is a member of AllSpire Health Partners, an interstate consortium of leading health systems, to focus on the sharing of best practices in clinical care and achieving efficiencies.