Day 1 of the 2016 Advocacy Summit has wrapped and featured learning and training sessions ranging from mock meetings on the Hill, to ways to use social media to advocate, to sessions for advocates to learn how to begin their Capital Hill journeys. Like most attendees, April McCaslin and her daughter, Nora, and Meredith Meyer and her daughter, Sophie, are both excited and nervous for their meetings with Congress members tomorrow.
April and Nora are from East Syracuse, New York, and Meredith and Sophie are from Hilton, New York. Both kids have juvenile polyarticular arthritis and, while this is their first Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit, they are no strangers to Foundation activities.
Nora was the 2015 Jingle Bell Run youth honoree in Syracuse. Sophie is the 2016 Walk to Cure Arthritis youth honoree for Rochester. “When they met, they were like instant friends,” said April.
So, what did they think of their first day of Advocacy Summit?
“It’s great,” said Meredith. “It feels so good to know I’m making an impact. I keep telling Sophie, ‘it’s important because it’s not just about you. It’s about all the kids and adults who have arthritis. We have to speak up for everyone.’”
“I feel like it’s a huge honor,” said April. “We came here because I want Nora to learn how to advocate for herself. This is a good opportunity for her. For me, I’m nervous but excited because I know we can make a difference.”
After a day of networking with other families affected by arthritis, learning about the related issues and getting tips for how to communicate with legislators, nearly 400 advocates, including April, Nora, Meredith and Sophie, will march to Capitol Hill tomorrow, where they will share their personal arthritis story with members of Congress and ask for their support. Specifically, they will be asking for support of H.R. 1859, a bill that will address the severe shortage of board certified pediatric rheumatologists through creation of a student loan forgiveness program, and creation of a $20 million dedicated Department of Defense fund for arthritis programs and research.
Follow all the Advocacy Summit activities at http://www.arthritis.org/summit2016