Posts Tagged ‘Lobby Day’

Advocate Spotlight! Keith Ahrens

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

When you meet Keith Ahrens, a You’re the Cure advocate from Nevada, you are immediately drawn in by his passion to inspire others to live healthier lives. After suffering a heart attack, undergoing open heart surgery, and losing 200 lbs by changing his diet and exercise routine, he knows firsthand how critical it is to advocate for changes that promote prevention.

Keith has advocated for smoke-free regulations, bans on trans fats, and other nutrition issues within his state- and in April, he came to Washington, DC to lobby for NIH research funding and the FIT Kids Act. He has even taken his advocacy efforts 35,000 feet in the air! While on his return flight to Nevada from DC, he recognized Representative Shelley Berkley on his plane and took the opportunity to share his story and ask for her support for our issues.

Ask Keith which of the advocacy campaigns he’s been involved with that he thought was most significant and he says, “That’s a really tough question – there have been so many! Giving testimony to the Nevada Assembly. Standing in front of the Capital with my arms raised, knowing that we were there to deliver a message. They’ve all been important. The advocacy in the moment is the most important thing. It could seem big or little at the time but there’s always so much potential.”

In addition to influencing lawmakers, Keith also inspires his peers to take action, whether it is through his work as an author, motivational speaker and fitness trainer, or virtually through social media.

As Keith says, “You may not think you are an advocate, but chances are you are if you’re paying attention to the issues. It’s just a matter of how soft or how loud you want your voice to be. You’re the Cure is the best vehicle for a small person to let their voice be heard very big. It empowers you to go to a level you never thought possible.”

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Go Red goes to Washington

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Myrna Aguilar, a Go Red spokeswoman and single mom from California, knew her family’s history of heart disease put her at risk as well. Coming from a Latin American family that “likes to eat well”, she realized she needed to make changes to her lifestyle. She started by signing up for a bike marathon last fall and committed to regular exercise and a healthier diet. She has maintained her healthy lifestyle and is working to inspire her young son and other family members to do the same.

Recently, Myrna took her push for prevention to another level by participating in the American Heart Association’s You’re the Cure on the Hill lobby day. “I wanted to share my story with lawmakers because I’m concerned for the future of my son and his generation,” she said. Myrna joined fellow advocates in urging lawmakers to address childhood obesity by supporting the FIT Kids Act and Safe Routes to School legislation, as well as to support increased funding for medical research to improve the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Myrna realized her actions made a difference when Representative Laura Richardson (shown with Eric Batch, Jacqueline Hernandez, and Myrna) agreed to co-sponsor the FIT Kids Act after their lobby day meeting. Simply by sharing her story and concerns as a mother, Myrna and other advocates across the country have been able to raise awareness and garner support from our nation’s lawmakers.

Myrna further reflects, “I heard the most amazing stories and left even more inspired by all of the great work You’re the Cure advocates are doing!” To join Myrna in taking action, visit http://www.yourethecure.org/ today!

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AHA advocates urge Congress to support research, fight childhood obesity

Friday, April 15th, 2011

More than 300 American Heart Association advocates met with their representatives in Congress this week and urged them to appropriate $35 billion for the National Institutes of Health for the 2012 fiscal year, co-sponsor the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act and support the Safe Routes to Schools program.

The FIT Kids Act would encourage quality physical education and activity during the school day, and the Safe Routes to Schools program promotes the development of walking and biking paths for schoolchildren.

Currently, NIH invests only 4 percent of its budget on heart research and a mere 1 percent on stroke research. “These funding levels are simply not enough to advance research and bring us closer to a cure,” said AHA President Ralph L. Sacco, M.D.

In addition to the action on Capitol Hill, over 12,000 emails were sent and nearly 200 phone calls were made by advocates across the country, who participated in the event virtually. Thanks to these active advocates, our message of prevention was delivered to 530 congressional offices!

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, (R-Ga.) and Rep. George Miller, (D-Calif.) received the association’s Congressional Public Service Awards for their leadership in the passage of the Child Nutrition Act- and four outstandig volunteers were awarded with the Association’s Advocate of the Year awards, including Dr. Stephen Cook (NY), Cindy Flynn (PA), Newt Williams (TN), and Abby Michaelsen (CA).

Star Jones of “The Celebrity Apprentice” also participated in the event sharing her journey of recovery from heart disease with fellow advocates and legislators alike.

For more information and event pictures, visit www.heart.org/yourethecureonthehill

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AHA Honors Advocates of the Year

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

On April 11th, the American Heart Association honored its 2011 Advocates of the Year at the Heroes Luncheon held at You’re the Cure on the Hill. The awards were presented by Debra Lockwood, Chair, and Nancy Brown, CEO. These outstanding advocates have demonstrated their commitment to advancing the mission of the Association through their advocacy work on the local, state, and federal levels. Congratulations to this year’s awardees.

2011 Science Advocate of the Year- Dr. Stephen Cook

Dr. Stephen Cook from Fairpoint, New York “embodies the ideals of translational research”. He was instrumental in developing the Healthi Kids initiative in Monroe County and its policy agenda to reverse childhood obesity. This coalition involved community, government and academic sectors to increase physical activity and improve nutrition for children. Dr. Cook is also the Chairman of the childhood Obesity Committee for the New York State chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; serves on state and national committees of the American Heart Association; and is a member of the National Advocacy Task Force of The Obesity Society.

2011 Survivor Advocate of the Year- Cindy Flynn

Cindy Flynn from Glen Mills, Pennsylvania has actively and enthusiastically participated in association events and has been an unstoppable advocate for heart and stroke issues. As a four-time stroke survivor and a passionate You’re the Cure advocate, she has established strong relationships with lawmakers to help advance heart disease and stroke legislation. She takes her role and responsibilities as a Pennsylvania State Advocacy Committee Field Representative very seriously and reaches out to advocacy staff regularly with updates about the work she is doing. She has also received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the association’s Great Rivers Affiliate and been recognized for her efforts to engage federal and state officials in Go Red for Women activities and policy issues.

2011 Volunteer Advocate of the Year- Newt Williams

In addition to his passion, Newt Williams of Nashville, Tennessee has brought his extensive knowledge of the legislative process and relationships with key officials to his work as a You’re the Cure advocate. He played a key role in the passage of local menu labeling regulations and has actively advocated for accessible and affordable health care for all Americans. He has served as a spokesperson and a media advocate- and takes every opportunity to educate others on our issues and recruit new advocates.

2011 Youth Advocate of the Year- Abby Michaelsen

Abby Michaelsen of Newport Beach, California has been a role model to other young people in her community and has demonstrated amazing leadership in educating and helping others live healthier lives. After losing her father to heart disease, Abby became an advocate for the association to help prevent heart disease in her community. In 2009, she founded Newport Harbor High School’s first Heart and Health Club and since then over 50 students have regularly organized community events including a Heart Month health fair and the Great American Smokeout. She has mobilized her peers to get the message out on tobacco-free legislation and testified to policymakers to support smoke-free parks. Abby has even developed a “Start Your Own Heart Club Toolkit”, so that students at other local schools can start and run their own clubs.

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You’re the Cure in North Carolina!

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

On June 2, 30 You’re the Cure advocates in North Carolina descended upon the General Assembly in Raleigh to share an important message to their legislators- investing in measures to improve the health of our citizens will save the state money and insure a healthier North Carolina.

Advocates came from far across North Carolina to attend You’re the Cure at the Capitol State Lobby Day. The event kicked off on June 1, with an afternoon training at the American Heart Association headquarters in North Carolina. Advocates heard from state experts on the topics they would be discussing with their legislators the next day. Peg O’Connell, director of the NC Alliance for Health Tobacco Committee, spoke on the importance of investing in an educational campaign to address stroke disparities in Eastern North Carolina.

Stroke is currently the 4th leading cause of death in North Carolina and for the first time since 2000, the number of stroke deaths increased in North Carolina between 2007 and 2008. Since 2008, North Carolina has run a media campaign that has shown statistically significant results in raising awareness about how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke and get a patient immediate care.

Advocates used this information to ask the state legislature to continue to fund this incredibly important campaign. In addition, advocates spoke out about the need to test children’s fitness in schools and provide healthy foods in cafeterias. “I love Lobby Day!” says Yolanda Dickerson, a long-time You’re the Cure volunteer. “Lobby Day gives advocacy a face! It makes a difference to legislators when they meet advocates face to face.” On the day of the event, the association also sponsored a press conference at the General Assembly that honored “Heartsavers.” Heartsavers are ordinary citizens who performed CPR in a time of need and helped save a life. Thanks to all our volunteers in NC for all their hard work!

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Advocates in Action – March Fly-in Wrap-Up

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Nearly 85 researchers and survivors joined the American Heart Association in Washington, DC, on March 10th for the Research Saves Lives lobby day. The advocates met with 95 Congressional offices, asking key Members of Congress to support increased funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) heart and stroke research. During the meetings, survivors and caregivers shared personal stories about how medical research saved their lives, while the scientists explained the significance of their research.

You’re the Cure advocates across the country were also invited to participate in the event virtually. By emailing and calling lawmakers and spreading the word on Facebook and Twitter, advocates helped reinforce the message being delivered in person on Capitol Hill. More than 10,600 email messages were sent to Members of Congress in support of increased NIH funding. Facebook and Twitter posts resulted in more than 140,000 impressions, raising awareness about the importance of NIH heart and stroke research.

Check out this video for some highlights from the day!

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Health Care Reform Advocates on the Hill

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

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Healthcare Hostages Dying For Reform

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Nearly 70 heart and stroke patients, doctors and volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, September 30 for the American Heart Association’s Congressional Lobby Day Fly-In to push for meaningful healthcare reform. Advocates, young and old, from across the country urged their representatives to fix the broken healthcare system by making sure the legislation will help prevent disease and expand access to affordable, quality care for the insured and uninsured. ABCNews.com spoke with several survivor-advocates and AHA CEO Nancy Brown to learn more about the event and what it’s like living with chronic conditions and covering the
high cost of treatment.
(photo courtesy of the Neary family)
To read the ABCNews.com article, view Healthcare Hostages Dying For Reform at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/heart-patients-dying-health-care-reform/story?id=8701910.
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Help Support You’re the Cure

Monday, May 4th, 2009

You’ve been reading on this blog all about our You’re the Cure on the Hill Lobby Day. It is a remarkable, inspiring event, but it is just one part of our advocacy program. Our work continues year round, delivering our message to lawmakers in Washington DC, your state capitols and local communities. Patients and caregivers count on our advocacy efforts to help pass policies that save lives from heart disease and stroke. But, all these efforts can be expensive.

With your help we can keep the pressure on and make an impact, but we need your support today.

Many of you email, call and meet with your lawmakers on our many policy priorities. In addition to your strong voices, will you consider making a donation to the American Heart Association? It’s because of the generous contributions of volunteers like you that AHA is able to have a strong presence in State Houses across the country and on Capitol Hill.

Let me share some examples:
• The tools needed to enable the timely delivery of messages to lawmakers costs about $2 per advocate per year. Just this past year our You’re the Cure advocates sent more than 350,000 messages to Congress alone.
• It costs on average $5 to send a paper petition to lawmakers.
• And the cost for a patient to come to Washington D.C. to meet face-to-face with Members of Congress and their staff during Lobby Day typically exceeds $1,000 a person for basic travel and lodging costs.

In order to ensure that the AHA is able to continue to conduct an effective advocacy program dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke, we need your generous donations today. Donate today to help AHA achieve our mission of building healthier lives!

The donation site is easy to use and allows you to give an amount of your choosing. Make your donation today!

We appreciate your support!

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More from Lobby Day… Meet Terri and Shayna Turner

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Lobby Day was indeed an amazing experience, with incredible advocates from all across the country. As our important work continues after Lobby Day, we want to continue to introduce you to fellow You’re the Cure advocates who are fighting for heart disease and stroke patients. Today, meet… Terri and Shayna Turner from Arizona.

Terri and Shayna just attended Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. and Terri shared their story with us.
My story begins with the unexpected death of my 49 year old sister from a massive heart attack. She had fallen very ill the night before and by the next day, before her lab results came back, she had left us to be with the lord. Why? That question would never be answered as the doctor had canceled the autopsy.
A year and a few months later, Mom leaves my 2 brothers, other sister, and me to greet our older sister; massive heart attack, once again no warning. I had already started asking questions after my sister’s death, and continued on that path only to repeatedly be told, “You are young and healthy, and your cholesterol is fine”.
A few years later I receive a phone call from one brother, that our older brother had died while snow blowing; no warning signs, he was 53. I really began asking questions and asked the doctors to do more. I was told there is really nothing more to do, that they could not explain what was going on…my other brother and I obviously figure out that some kind of genetic heart disease must run in our family. We were brought up with very healthy eating habits and physically active. I am a vegetarian.
A few years later I receive a phone call from my sister-in-law; my other brother died of a massive heart attack while driving home; he was 54, once again, no warning signs.
Shayna and I have no choice but to stand proud, head and shoulders above the crowd, as we face our losses. Shayna and I feel we have been left behind to help others who face life’s trials with heart disease, just as we are.
As the baby of the family, I find it incredibly hard to comprehend why a person should have to go through this before being heard. I later found out that a simple blood test, covered by insurance, would have detected the very rare, but not unknown genetic heart disease that has struck our family.
I took it upon myself to have my 11 year old daughter tested although so many people said she is “too young”. We both see the same specialist of heart disease and genetics. We take daily medications and continue to exercise and watch what we eat. Shayna is also a vegetarian.
Shayna and I are survivors with what took their lives all too soon…our fight is one against a very rare genetic heart disease of which there are only about 40 known cases world wide.
In our life faced with heavy burdens and many challenges, we choose to be for a cause for the cure together. We strive to have great experiences in life, and along our journey in life we are on a mission to keep our family’s legacy alive by doing any and all things possible to send out a loud and clear message toward the importance of funding for research into heart disease.
Why should my 15 year old daughter have to live with the thoughts of passing this disease on to her children? She is already facing each and every day with the fear of losing her mom. I continue on my journey of beating this for her through my actions and words… we are going to beat this and that is why funding for research is so important and definitely needs to continue. We dream that our story is such an important reminder that even in challenging financial times, the need for supporting important causes does not go away. Without the ongoing support of volunteers and donors, lives will be lost, sometimes all too soon… we would like to keep our mission on the path of awareness and continue to move forward with this mission as advocates. Through these efforts, we hope to ensure that lifesaving research and programs can continue to benefit families affected by heart disease and stroke today and tomorrow.
The hurt and loss we carry inside is a burden that we get through by faith, it does not make it go away, but we choose to focus on living our life each and every day and to always follow our dreams… when one part of our journey ends we remember that it is not the end, but instead another beginning. When one discovery is found, it can lead to the discovery of one, or many other leads to a cure.
We have to look at life with a new purpose, what better purpose than to advocate with all the wonderful people who work for the AHA. We will take our time when we reach a crossroads; we will be mindful of each step we take, otherwise we may get off track. We strive to keep our ideas exhilarating, but won’t translate that feeling into speed, but instead translate it into dedication and perseverance…
Terri and Shayna are survivors and passionate advocates for the American Heart Association. Stay tuned for ways you can join them in fighting for those affected by heart disease and stroke.
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