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Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit: 2017

Last week, I went down to Washington, D. C., for the Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit. This is a trip for learning how to be an advocate and then actually meeting with representatives on Capitol Hill to ask for specific ways they can help their constituents. As you can probably gather, it’s put-on the Arthritis Foundation. It’s also a great way to meet other advocates, see friends you’ve made before, and learn about how to improve as advocates.

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Recapping the 2017 Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit

Sunday, March 5 – Flight, Friend, Homework

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

I had a 10 AM flight, so I got to the airport and did homework while I waited for my flight, as well as while on the flight. Once I landed, I got to see a friend of mine who lives in D. C. – one of my oldest friends; we’ve been friends since we were 7 – and pick up some food for food-sensitivity emergencies. I then spent the rest of the day resting in advance of the activity I would experience over the next few days. Speaking of activity …

Monday, March 6 – Advocacy Training

The morning started off with a series of welcome addresses (including updated statistics on arthritis, the issues we would be speaking of, etc.) before we broke off for advocacy trainings based on our level of experience.

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

I attending the intermediate advocacy training, which focused on responses to opposition to our issues. There, I got to hang out with the one and only Kenzie, who I’ve been friends with online for  years but just met in person that day.

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

Proof we hung out taken from Kenzie’s Insta story. Also, she has ice because she just got a port put in three days before this because she’s a badass.

After lunch, there was a series of trainings for people to attend based on their interests. I actually spoke at the social media advocacy training session! Action shot:

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

Tuesday, March 7 – Visits to Capitol Hill

On Tuesday, we had a goodbye session over breakfast before heading to Capitol Hill. Since my meetings didn’t start until noonish, I had a couple of hours to kill, which I spent studying and hanging out with other people in the Massachusetts delegation. Then, we headed over a bit early to enjoy the nice weather (60s!) and make our way with minimum stress.

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

Most of the Massachusetts Delegation

We met with Elizabeth Warren’s office first before splitting up for our afternoon meetings.

In the afternoon, I delivered materials to the offices of the representatives who we didn’t have a meeting with before meeting with my congressman, Mike Capuano. We even got to meet the congressman himself for a few minutes!

Arthritis Foundation Advocacy Summit 2017

After the meetings, I headed to the airport, and made it to Boston around 10 PM. And then I was at the hospital at 6:30 the next morning for my infusion!

Overall, it was a great trip. This is my third year going, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity. Due to pure perfect timing, we went to the Hill the morning after they announced the new healthcare replacement plan, so we had the opportunity to share our stories and explain how the government can help us going forward. If you want to get involved and influence your representatives, here are some things you can do:

  • Call their office and tell them what it is you’re looking for – you can’t expect them to read your mind
  • Reach out on social media and tell them your opinion, but be specific. Don’t just say, “You’re hurting your constituents.” You need to say, “By doing x, you’re hurting your constituents.”
  • Here are more tips on how you can get involved and make a difference

 Have you ever gone on an advocacy trip like this? What was your experience?

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