Scores of the most passionate and vocal champions of the arthritis community recently descended on the nation’s capital to hone their advocacy skills and share their personal stories with each other and with their members of Congress. Attended by nearly 130 participants from 32 states, the Arthritis Foundation’s new Platinum Ambassadors Assembly was held March 12-13.
Platinum Ambassadors are top grassroots volunteers who complete six annual advocacy assignments and raise at least $1,000 to support the Foundation’s mission to conquer and cure arthritis. Forty-eight of our fifty-one Platinum Ambassadors participated in the first-of-its-kind event, along with 25 Junior Ambassadors, young people ages 13 to 17 who speak out for the estimated 300,000 kids in the U.S. who battle arthritis. Also attending were 30 future advocacy leaders, highly-engaged Arthritis Foundation volunteers who have committed to achieving Platinum Ambassador status in 2018.
Assembly participants spent a full day of planning and learning new strategies for “precision advocacy,” cultivating the skills it takes to make a difference on Capitol Hill and in local communities. They got a better understanding of ways to urge Congress to make step therapy processes more transparent for patients – and persuading lawmakers to join the Congressional Arthritis Caucus – our top two priorities. They also got up to speed on advocacy actions that can help solve the rheumatology shortage and secure the funding needed for arthritis research and programs at government agencies.
Platinum Ambassadors took part in a fireside chat with former Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas, who shared his insider tips on how to be an effective Advocate on Capitol Hill. Future advocacy leaders spent time meeting face to face with Arthritis Foundation staff, talking about ways to make the biggest impact on their federal legislators and back home. Junior Ambassadors heard from young people who are making a splash in Washington, DC, including an intern working for a U.S. senator and a student at The Washington Center.
At our Excellence in Advocacy Awards Dinner, Anna Legassie, 2018 Walk to Cure Arthritis national adult honoree, of Boston, told the crowd: “There’s no wrong way to tell your story. Even when it pales in comparison to the people around you, your story is still valid, still important and deserves to be heard.”
Whitney Greaves, Junior Ambassador from Colorado, said: “Advocating can either be empowering or completely nerve-racking. Choose to be empowered, confident in your convictions. Everybody has a story.”
Deb Constien, esteemed member of the Arthritis Foundation’s national advocacy committee, Arthritis Support Network leader and Platinum Ambassador, echoed that: “Our stories really make a difference. I have 35 years of a story to share, and share I have!”
During the ceremony, Platinum Ambassador Awards were presented to 51 volunteers and five Junior Ambassadors were also recognized.
The next day on Capitol Hill, assembly participants held a total of 137 meetings with congressional members or their senior staff. As a result, 23 members of Congress signed onto our letters supporting much needed arthritis funding at the Department of Defense and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And two lawmakers joined the arthritis caucus, which now consists of more than a quarter of congressional members.
Those are some of the immediate impacts we were able to make. The stories everyone told were inspiring and made what living with arthritis is like very personal and real. Your stories represent a slice of all of us, which is what being an Arthritis Foundation Advocate is all about.
Our collective voices certainly don’t stop there. Together, throughout the year, we’ll keep the fire burning on Capitol Hill and beyond. Our first Platinum Ambassador Assembly was yet another big step we’re taking to raise the bar in increasing arthritis awareness and taking actions that get results.
Join our growing movement and become an Arthritis Foundation Advocate yourself – and consider taking the next big step of becoming an Ambassador… even a Platinum Ambassador! Keep an eye out, too, for information about what we’re planning for our get-together next year.
- Platinum Ambassador Assembly – Highlights from Capitol Hill
- Sign Up to Be An Advocate
- Learn More About Advocates & Ambassadors
- Read About Our Federal Policy Priorities