The Latest

Home | The Latest | Thank You | What Is ALS? | About Aimee | Fellow ALS Patients | Links | 350,000 Stories | Contact Aimee | Aimee's Family | ALS Activism | Letters | My Superman | Walk4Life 2006 | Walk4Life 2007 | Walk4Life 2008 | Gala 2008 | Your Turn | Aimee's Writing | A Day in the Life... | An Unforgettable Ride | Kids' Corner | In the News
Archive Newer | Older

May 19, 2007

ALS Advocacy Days
We just had the most amazing experience in Washington, D.C., for ALS Advocacy Days, presented by the ALS Association (ALSA). What struck me the most about participating in this event was being part of this enormous cooperative effort—joining my voice with a large and vocal group of more than 650 ALS advocates from all 50 states.

ALS is so often an isolating disease; although I know the numbers by heart, my day-to-day experience is far removed from the thousands of ALS patients and families that make up our elite club. It’s difficult for us to physically get out and about; it’s frustrating to try to communicate with others who struggle to make out our words; it’s infuriating for our physical limitations to prevent us from participating fully in our communities. And while we can use many online forums to connect with the ALS community, that’s certainly no replacement for face-to-face interaction.

Which is why I’m struggling to put into words what ALSA’s Advocacy Days meant to me. The informative meetings, social gatherings, and advocacy opportunities gave me a chance to feel like a fully participating and productive member of society. What a wonderful feeling—and one I don’t often experience anymore, at least never to this degree.

Maybe part of the magic was that I felt like I was back at one of the conferences I participated in when I was still in the workforce. (Granted, there’s a lot more at stake now, and the energy and passion far and away exceeded any corporate event I’ve ever attended. But it did feel a bit like slipping into an old, comfortable role—the charged atmosphere of hundreds of people joined in common cause, the badges we could easily spot in the hotel and on the Hill identifying our collective purpose, the networking with like-minded conventioneers, and the brainstorming of ideas and sharing of success stories all left me reminiscing about similar experiences from a lifetime ago.)

Up on the stage, the ALSA presenters did a masterful job of explaining why we were gathered and exciting us about our opportunity to make a difference. The expert panel of researchers mesmerized us with their brilliant efforts at unlocking the mysteries of ALS and their optimism at the tantalizing possibilities that lie ahead. The breakout sessions provided guidance for our meetings on Capitol Hill and reassurance that in simply telling our personal stories, we could succeed. Marty Woywod, who has been the single most influential person in motivating my own involvement in ALS activism, gave us a real-life example of that storytelling in our first meeting and set the tone for our day.

All the meetings and preparation culminated in an exhilarating day in and around the Capitol, meeting with lawmakers who can—and I believe will—help us move this fight forward. Striding the ornate halls of the Capitol (okay, technically I was riding, but I was striding the halls in my head), sitting in offices and meeting rooms where decisions are made and deals are brokered, shaking hands and sitting down with members of Congress who moments before were casting votes on the floor of the House of Representatives… Well, it was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of taking an active role in our government process. We had a unique opportunity to be the voices and faces for an often-forgotten community. We told our stories, garnered support, and brainstormed more possibilities with our elected officials—people who can ultimately make a difference through their support of bills and budget appropriations that will advance ALS research. (It might help to get the full effect if you re-read that last paragraph again while humming “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America.”)

We are so grateful for the support and encouragement we received from Senator Richard Durbin, Representative Melissa Bean and Representative Mark Kirk and for the time and attention they so graciously shared with us. It is sometimes easy in our current political environment to grow cynical of our government and how it operates. However, we have nothing but praise for our legislators and their staff members. We were impressed with our reception, with the open exchange of ideas, with their questions and sincere desire to help, with their willingness to go above and beyond what we were asking and to brainstorm additional means for moving the fight forward. Every single meeting resulted in a commitment of support for the ALS Registry Act and for continued funding for ALS research through the Department of Defense.

Which brings us to a new question: what next?

As we heard over and over from the wonderful ALSA speakers, advocacy is a year-round activity. While this week’s whirlwind events have come to a close, our work is not done. We plan to keep up the connections we’ve made (and yes, we’ll do better with that than I’m doing keeping up with this blog!), and we discussed ways to work with them to raise the profile of ALS in society at large. Stay tuned for more on that…

In the meantime, please spend a few minutes checking out ALSA’s Advocacy Action Center (at and find out whether or not your members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors for the ALS Registry Act. If not, please take a few more minutes to write and request their support via the form letter on that site (it’s so easy!), adding a paragraph at the beginning to personalize your message (just a few sentences letting them know “here’s why I care about this issue”). That little bit of personalization carries more weight than you might imagine—transforming a form letter that is easily ignored into a powerful testimony from a constituent, a request carrying the weight of personal interest and urgency. Thanks in advance for your help!

There is so much more to say about Advocacy Days and how deeply it affected Jim, Nick, and me. I’ll try to add more thoughts in the coming days.


P.S.  I realize this blogging experiment isn’t turning out too well so far, and I take full responsibility for that. But I’m not quite ready to give up on it entirely... I tip my cap to the bloggers who update regularly, and if anyone out there has tips they’d like to share on how they manage to juggle life and blogging, I’m open to suggestions!

12:34 pm cdt          Comments

Archive Newer | Older
Welcome to Aimee's Blah, Blah, Blog...
With great trepidation, we introduce the latest feature on a blog.

We acknowledge the pathetically long gaps between new entries to the website, and we appreciate the gentle prodding from visitors who would like to see more frequent updates about what's keeping us busy. 

So, in an attempt to dispel the notion that Aimee lounges at home all day in her World Series Champions gear (okay, that part is true) with her feet up (never!), eating bon-bons (often) and catching up on the latest trade rumors and spring-training reportswhile Jim is out saving the world in his S-emblazoned red cape, of course—we are experimenting with a blog to provide (weekly? biweekly? monthly?) updates on our activities.

However, come Opening Day, we're not promising anything...

[Note: Aimee is the author of the blog. All first-person accounts are hers unless otherwise noted. Any pro-Cubs entries are obviously the unauthorized work of Jim and should be reported to the proper authorities immediately.]