The recent visit my mom and I made to Washington D.C. and Capitol Hill was truly a great experience. We had so much fun getting to know some of the families that were visiting with the Children’s Hospital Association’s Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day on July 13, 2017.
More than 40 families visited Capitol Hill on Family Advocacy Day to speak with lawmakers about the importance of health care for kids. I felt so honored being asked by Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare to represent Minnesota and the hospital that I have been treated at since I was 4 months old.
Why I Value Advocacy
I feel like we made more Gillette friends while we were in D.C. Patty Dunn, who manages Gillette communications, and Karen Sealander, who represents Gillette in Washington D.C. accompanied us to the Hill and helped us navigate the Capitol.
I've always valued advocating as giving a voice to people who may not have one. And this trip gave me the opportunity to do just that; on a larger scale than I ever imagined.
It felt so humbling to be able to talk to lawmakers about the importance that the Better Care Reconciliation Act bill (at the time) not be passed. Discussions on the health care bill were happening as we were meeting with lawmakers; making the timing of our visit all the more meaningful.
Meeting Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator for Minnesota
We started our day on the Hill with Senator Amy Klobuchar at her Minnesota Morning breakfast. It was a great honor to meet with her briefly and get a few photos (not to mention the delicious treat from Daube’s Bakery which was flown in from Rochester, Minnesota!). We thanked her personally for her ongoing support of health care and Medicaid.
Erik Paulsen, Congressman for Minnesota’s Third District
Our long day of one-on-one meetings began in Representative Erik Paulsen’s office. We started the meeting with his health care aid who listed off statistics in support of the health care bill. Then, Representative Paulsen joined us.
It felt very empowering to be able to express my concerns to a representative who was openly approving of the health care bill. We had a great conversation about how health care and Medicaid saves kids' lives every day.
Kids are the future of our world. Kids born with complex medical issues often need costly treatments. If we can give them the treatment they need, and give them the opportunity to go to school, they become the great people they are meant to be; making the future of our government, economy, and world bright.
I was able to share with Representative Paulsen my own personal story, and how if not for great health care when I was born I would not be here today. It was rewarding when after the meeting he tweeted a thank you to me and encouraged me to continue advocating and telling my story.
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
Next, the four of us made the trek between buildings to Al Franken's office. We happened to arrive early and were greeted by the sound of his joyous laughter from the meeting preceding ours.
We first met with a member of his staff, having a nice conversation about what we were in Washington to do. Our meeting with Senator Franken was very fun. We exchanged stories and spent awhile talking about, and agreeing, that Gillette is an amazing place where kids are treated and cared for regardless of what their families can afford.
I noticed that throughout our meeting, Senator Franken did not take any notes; therefore I was really impressed when (about a week or so later) he used my situation in a speech on the Capitol lawn and managed to get virtually everything correct.
A Visit to Remember
Senator Franken and I discussed my college plans. I mentioned that I want to attend Harvard and would greatly appreciate a recommendation letter from a Harvard graduate. He encouraged me to also consider Princeton and that I have his support.
When our meeting came to a close, Franken started to walk back into his office. He turned around and gave me the biggest, most genuine bear hug. The experience that we had with Senator Franken really made me feel confident that we have some very supportive politicians in office that care deeply about their constituents.
Jordan Grossman, Health Care Advisor for Senator Klobuchar
Our last meeting was with Jordan Grossman, Amy Klobuchar's health care advisor. Senator Klobuchar's opposition to the health care bill was already a given. We had a nice chat about health care and its importance to not only the children being treated, but also to hospitals that are treating those kids.
It really struck me especially that Jordan asked us if there was anything else Amy Klobuchar's office could do to help us. His question opened up a longer discussion about how important health care is to every aspect of a child’s future. It was very apparent that Amy Klobuchar's office really cared about her constituents also and wanted to do everything they could for us.
Concluding a Great and Meaningful Trip
I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Speak Now For Kids Family Advocacy Day, and to represent Gillette Children’s Specialty Health Care. Going to D.C. gave me a chance to express my feelings about health care and disabilities. This experience allowed me to advocate for the issues I care about to some of the most important people who can present my ideas on a larger scale.
My visit to Capitol Hill as an ambassador for Gillette was a great learning experience. I enjoyed learning about our political systems and processes by being there and being involved. The opportunity to express my thoughts and concerns to our lawmakers was a privilege.
Reflections on Government
Being involved in the process showed me how easy it is to participate, and showed me that our government is about people being involved and communicating and advocating. I visited the Washington Monument, the famous Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the Veteran’s Memorials, and many other places.
Experiencing the history of these places made me realize how many events have happened there that have changed our lives. The atmosphere of being involved and being a part of change made my visit to Washington D.C. an experience I will not forget.