They came from places like Runnels, a small town in Iowa with 507 residents, and New York City, the second largest city in the world.
People like Leticia Hugues and her son, Ashton, from Smiths Grove Kentucky, Lydia Meyer and her daughter Susanna from Reno, Nevada, and Kelli Carlson from Woodbury Minnesota and her friend Kelli Dwyer from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Yesterday, more than 400 volunteers from all parts of the country convened in Washington, DC, filled with passion and desire, and ready to use their personal arthritis stories to affect real and meaningful changes for the arthritis community.
Our 2017 Advocacy Summit kicked off yesterday with a rousing welcome by Foundation President and CEO, Ann Palmer. The day included educational breakout sessions where guests learned about issues affecting the arthritis community’s easy access to affordable care, how to advocate through social media and our new Prescription for Access initiative, designed to help arthritis patients navigate the complex healthcare system.
The day’s activities culminated with the Excellence in Advocacy Awards Dinner. 11-year-old Graci Diggs from Tipton, Missouri, was awarded the 2016 Emerging Leader in Advocacy Award for her work including testifying before Missouri legislators on the need for step therapy legislation. Staci Penner from North Newton, Kansas, received the 2016 Edward M. Kennedy Advocacy Award for her work at local, state and federal levels, including serving on a special U.S. Food and Drug Administration patient committee. Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) received the Advocacy Leadership Award for introducing the 21st Century Cures Act and championing the act throughout the legislative process. And, a record 41 volunteers received Platinum Ambassador recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty by accomplishing a challenging list of advocacy assignments along with four bonus activities, all while raising funds to support our mission to conquer and cure arthritis.
“I will continue to fight for all of us,” said Graci in her acceptance remarks. “Please continue to fight with me.”
As the day ended, guests were preparing themselves for today’s 247 meetings with Members of Congress. During these meetings, legislators will be asked to incorporate patient-centered priorities in any forthcoming repeal and replace healthcare legislation, making access to vital treatments easier and more affordable, support funding for arthritis research at the Department of Defense and to join the Congressional Arthritis Caucus – a group for Members of Congress that serves as a clearinghouse for information regarding arthritis and its devastating toll on our population and economy.