Guest Blogger: Kami Sutton, Grassroots Coordinator
On February 3, a group of nearly 40 volunteers and 20 AP Government students from Eastlake High School in Sammamish gathered at our State Capitol for our 2015 American Heart Association Lobby Day. The morning started with informative presentations by Lindsay Hovind, our Government Relations Director and Mike Shaw, a contract Lobbyist with the American Heart Association, who went over the current climate in Olympia including budget progress and what is expected during this year’s legislative session.
While our adult volunteers were being briefed by Lindsay & Mike, our student advocates were already busy advocating for Safe Routes to School out on the front lawn of the Capitol. They held signs, and gave speeches on the importance of safe walking and biking paths for students to use to get their daily exercise while walking and biking to class. Along with our partners at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition (COPC) the students did a great job getting our message out there of the importance of funding these projects that provide the necessary improvements for the students to get to school safely.
Back in the training room our students joined us for presentations by Representative Marcus Riccelli who sponsors House Bill 1285 which will mandate Pulse Oximetry Screening as part of the Newborn Screening panel to help detect Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) in newborns in hopes of saving tiny lives. Joining us in Olympia were several CCHD survivors including 3-year-old Carissa Henderson and her family who helped make a powerful statement as to why this is such important legislation.
Our final presentations, made by Vic Colman, the Executive Director of COPC, gave us more details on the Safe Routes to School program and what funding by the legislature could do to help our communities make these vital improvements with sidewalks, crosswalks and proper signage to make this “healthy choice, the easy choice”. Our other legislative ask of the day was Tobacco Prevention and Control funding, which last year we were successful in securing $1.5M for the program, but with tobacco use still being the number one cause of preventable death, we need more funding to keep cessation programs alive and ready for citizens to use.
We had a quick question and answer session which made for great discussion with the presenters including Representative Riccelli who answered questions for the students about his advice on getting involved with state government and the importance of staying in touch with their lawmakers.
After a great morning training and a wonderful heart healthy lunch, each group got together to prepare for meeting with their lawmakers and planned out introducing our three agenda items to their Representatives and Senators. Each group spread out across campus to attend the meetings and we gained a lot of support for the issues at hand.
All in all this was a wonderful day with great volunteers and the training of many future advocates and possibly even some future lobbyists or lawmakers! Everyone had a great day and we rallied some amazing support from our Washington State Lawmakers that will boost our issues to the forefront of the chambers discussions in the future.
To stay up to date and involved with our 2015 legislation, don’t forget to visit www.yourethecure.org regularly and take action.