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Who thinks advocacy is difficult?  Who thinks they have nothing to say that's important? Well I'm here to tell you that advocacy is not difficult and you too have something important to say!

My husband Michael and I recently joined hundreds of other volunteers from around the country in Washington D.C. to speak with lawmakers on two important issues.  Keeping the standards for healthy school meals and to ask for an increase in funding for the National Institute of Health (NIH).  

As a stroke survivor, NIH research funding is an important issue to me.  I learned that only 4% of research funds are allocated to heart disease and 1% to stroke.  Funding NIH dollars have decreased every year since 2002.  

Think of how much we've learned with medical research in the last 20 years, the improvements that were made, the lives that were saved, and where we will be in the next 20 years.  It's important to increase NIH funding, not decrease.  Our future generations depend on this.

I'm proud to be an advocate with You're The Cure.  Together with other You're The Cure voices, we can and will make a difference.  

Every heart has a story.  Make yours heard today. 

Karen Dionne, stroke survivor
Founder Reclaiming Ourselves - online support for stroke survivors
Board Member South Sound

AHA You’re The Cure advocate and stroke survivor Chris McLachlin recently represented Hawaii at the AHA’s National Lobby Day event in Washington, D.C. He joined over 350 other advocates in visiting their Congressional representatives to ask them to support increased funding for NIH cardiovascular research, and to protect current nutrition standards for school meals.

Chris met directly with Senator Brian Schatz (one of Chris’ former students at Punahou School), and Senator Mazie Hirono, as well as staff members of Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai. He also had the honor of visiting and sharing information with another of his former Punahou students, President Barack Obama.

Below Chris talks about his experience:

I have been to a lot of conferences in my lifetime, none more action packed and full than the first day of the Lobby Day event. The extensive training we received helped me feel prepared to be a good lobbyist and advocate when we visited our representatives on the second day. I’m confident that the Hawaii representatives will support the AHA’s legislative agenda.

It was great to visit with my former students, and they both made me feel very welcome despite their busy schedules. The President seemed especially happy to see me, and he listened intently to my presentation about the AHA’s policy interests. He assured me that he would personally read through the information from the AHA I left with him and I feel confident that he will support the AHA’s goals.

The AHA’s work is such a great cause and I met so many incredible speakers, AHA volunteers and staff members. I would welcome the opportunity to participate the Lobby Day again. It’s really a privilege to have been given the opportunity to represent the AHA and Hawaii.

What brought you to be an advocate for the American Heart Association?

I had my stroke in 2003 while serving in the Illinois legislature. I'd already been working with the American Heart Association on health care issues so after I was able, I became a visible advocate for heart healthy issues.

What issues or policies are you most passionate about and why?

Now retired, I continue to address heart healthy matters as I serve on a study group established by the legislature to continue work begun for stroke survivors. Our work product is shared nationally with the neediest populations affected by stroke.

What is your favorite advocacy memory or experience so far and what made it great?

I work with a stroke advocacy group called SSEEO. We've initiated a new survivor- to- survivor program that has been received very positively by both providers and recipients.

What is your favorite way to be active?

I exercise at my local health facility three times a week but also keep physically busy with eight of our grandchildren living in the same house.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?

Banana fresh off the tree!