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A Winning Game for School Lunches and Research Funding!

At You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015, more than 380 AHA advocates and staff from all 50 states, plus DC —and thousands more back home—stepped up to the plate for healthy school lunches and medical research funding. This year, our Hill day theme was built off the great American game of baseball, something that could resonate with advocates and lawmakers alike and give them a rallying cry for the event: Step Up to the Plate! It was an invitation from advocates to lawmakers, asking them to get off the bench and into the game. And they knocked it out of the park.

It was one of our most exciting days on the Hill with a combination of passionate advocates meeting face-to-face with their lawmakers and thousands of supportive voices from around the country who backed them up with phone calls, emails, tweets and Facebook posts. Together, our voices hit a home run for healthy school meals and heart and stroke research funding.

Advocates conducted 293 meetings with lawmakers, asking them to protect the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act and support school nutrition standards. At the same time, advocates asked lawmakers to make heart disease and stroke research a national priority by increasing the budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, advocates back home around the country jumped in as pinch hitters to call and email their members of Congress and ask them to Step Up to the Plate. Capitol Hill received over 6,218 messages from constituents back home.

Throughout the day, we had so many all-star advocates who made the views, passions and needs of constituents known to their lawmakers in new and compelling ways. On top of that, we had two Congressional Award Winners who rounded out the team: Sen. Crapo (R-ID) and Sen. Mikulski (D-MD). They received the American Heart Association’s National Public Service Award, which has been granted biennially since 1982 to members of Congress who have actively promoted our mission. We are so thrilled to have their support!

Below is a snapshot of our day!

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You're the Cure on the Hill - A Youth's Perspective

Today we'd like to introduce one of our youth advocates, Michelle Ballasiotes. Michelle attended our You're the Cure on the Hill this week, and shared her story with Congress. Read on below and hear about her experience on Capitol Hill. Take it away Michelle!

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Hi, I am Michelle Ballasiotes and this week I joined over 380 AHA advocates and staff from across the country in Washington, DC for You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015. We were in D.C. to "Step Up to the Plate" for healthy school meals and medical research funding. It was two very exciting days where I met so many wonderful and passionate advocates who were ready to share our message with Congress.

Here are some highlights from my trip.

Monday - A Day to Learn about the Issues

On Monday while the adults attended their training sessions, I was able to participate in an engaging youth training led by Kim and Andrea from Youth Empowered Solutions. They first provided us with background information about the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and NIH Medical Research Funding. One surprising thing that I learned was that the initial reason for healthier school meals was because kids were not receiving the proper nourishment they needed and were even too skinny to join the army! Since then, it has become even more important for kids to have healthy options at school.

It was important for us to learn about the history and important facts of each of our issues, because we wanted to be able to confidently share what we learned with our members of Congress. We also practiced how to incorporate our personal story into our asks of Congress. By personalizing the issues, we learned that our ask becomes much more powerful.

As a reward for a hard day's work, we learned how to make a quick and easy apple cobbler. Which taught us that it's okay to have healthy desserts in moderation. It was a delicious break during our training! 

Another important part of our training was learning about the important role that social media plays in emphasizing our message. Many of our Senators and Representatives are on social media, and they listen to the things we have to say. We were able to share the hashtag, #StepUp4HeartHealth, throughout the event and see it make a real impact. So remember, hashtags have power!

The next big event on Monday was the Heroes Luncheon, which featured an actual school meal served on fun, red lunch trays. The taco salad was delicious!

It was also so awesome to see two fellow North Carolinians receive national awards! My friend, Cassidy Collins, won the National Youth Advocate of the Year Award and Dr. David Huang received the National Science Advocate of the Year. It was great to see the passion that many North Carolina advocates share for the American Heart Association!

I learned so much on Monday and felt prepared to take what I learned and share it on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Tuesday - Time to turn Capitol Hill RED

To start off the morning, I led a few youth advocates onto the stage at the send-off breakfast. We were able to share some of what we learned during our previous day's training with everyone. It was great to provide a quick recap for the whole group before we made our way up to Capitol Hill to meet with our members of Congress.

My first meeting was with Senator Tillis and his staff. It went great! We were actually able grab a few minutes with the Senator himself. I found it very helpful to know some background on each member of Congress ahead of time. It let me know what points will persuade them the most.

During my day on Capitol Hill, I learned that every meeting on the Hill goes differently and you have to be prepared for anything. For example, during our meeting with Representative Hudson, his staff brought up some interesting points about medical research funding and how we measure results. I also learned that Hill staff members may be new and are just trying to absorb everything we told them. Which was okay, because we were prepared to answer all of their questions and were able to educate them on our issues.

The rest of our meetings went great and I am confident we hit a home run on Capitol Hill!

Why Did I Attend You're the Cure on the Hill 2015? - My story

I attended You're the Cure on the Hill because I suffered a stroke before I was even born. As a result of my stroke, I have been able to work with the American Heart Association. I want to be a strong advocate for more awareness of cardiovascular disease and the policies that influence positive change. This year, I was able to be a powerful voice in advocating for more NIH medical research funding, because the cause of my stroke is still unknown. If we don't know what causes strokes in kids, how can we prevent them?  Also, by being a youth myself, I was able to share my personal experience of why keeping healthy school meal standards strong is important to kids like me!

Being on Capitol Hill is always such a thrill for me. I love seeing people's faces when they see the sea of red and know it is the American Heart Association. It's also wonderful to show Congress that youth have a voice and we are not afraid to express our opinions.

Each year I attend Lobby Day is different, but it's always exciting. I've done National Lobby Day six times and I can't wait until the next event! I love reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people.

 

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Extra Innings! Are YOU Going to Step Up to the Plate?

If you thought the game was over, we’ve got news for you! We’re headed into extra innings, and we need ALL of our advocates to step up to the plate!

A few days ago, hundreds of You’re the Cure advocates from across the country flooded Capitol Hill urging their lawmakers to step up for heart health. We've made a huge impact this week, but we need to keep it up. Let your lawmakers know that if they step up for heart health then they have your support, and that we will hold them accountable if they don't. 

It’s not too late to take action to support healthy school meals and medical research funding. Tell your lawmakers to get off the bench and in the game. The health of their constituents depends on it.

Will you step up with me?

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May is American Stroke Month

Anyone can have a stroke and everyone should be ready.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies from a stroke. That is why The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is inviting all Americans to become Stroke Heroes by learning and sharing the warning signs of stroke, F.A.ST. (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1).

Recognizing and responding to a stroke emergency immediately can lead to quick stroke treatment and may even save a life. Be ready!

Here is how you can participate in American Stroke Month

  • Share the F.A.S.T. acronym with your friends, family and loved ones throughout American Stroke Month.
  • Share our F.A.S.T. Quiz to test your stroke knowledge.
  • Download our free Spot a Stroke F.A.S.T. mobile app to prepare you in case of a stroke emergency and to have easy access.

Go to StrokeAssociation.org/StrokeMonth to learn more about how you can get involved.

 

 

 

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Ryley Williams testifies to promote funding for pediatric stroke research

Ryley Williams was 15 years old, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound football player – and he was also the victim of a stroke.

Today, nearly three years after intense surgeries and still in ongoing physical therapy, he will be testifying before Congress on Wednesday to promote more funding for research and awareness about pediatric stroke. He and his mother will appear before a Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

His mother, Terri Rose of Bentonville, Arkansas, who will testify with him, said she wants lawmakers to remember Ryley when they start working on the budget.

This article originally appeared on the American Heart Association main website. Click here to read the entire article.

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Advocate highlights for legislators the importance of research funding

As a girl of 11, Shobha Ghosh experienced the deaths of both her mother and older sister in the span of just 10 days. It was a trauma that would set her on a course she has travelled for four decades now, a search to find a cure to heart disease.

Today, Dr. Shobha Ghosh, is a leading researcher looking for ways to use gene therapy to flush plaque-building cholesterol from cells. She will be describing her research during a briefing Tuesday on Capitol Hill that highlights the value of “Discovery to Delivery” – and highlighting for legislators the importance of critical funding over time so that innovations in medicine can become realities.

The event features basic, clinical and health services researchers, as well as heart patients. It is sponsored by AcademyHealth, Research!America, American Heart Association, and The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.

This article originally appeared on the American Heart Association webpage. Click here to read the rest of the article.

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Update: Relief for stroke survivors

I have mixed news to share about our efforts to repeal Medicare’s caps on outpatient therapy services. Late Tuesday night, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that we hoped would include Senators Cardin’s and Vitter’s bipartisan amendment to permanently repeal the therapy caps. Unfortunately, the amendment fell a few votes short of the 60 votes needed to pass.

The good news, however, is that included in the bill is an “exceptions” process that allows patients to continue to be able to access therapy services over and above Medicare’s limits for the next two years. The President is expected to sign the bill in the next couple days.

Even though the bill does not repeal the therapy caps, a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate is now on record in support of the repeal for the first time ever! Moreover, a two-year reprieve is great news for stroke survivors. We could not have achieved this without the hard work of each of you and we should be proud of this accomplishment. And we will continue to fight to repeal the caps once and for all.

Thank you for the actions you take to ensure the priorities of heart and stroke patients are kept in front of our nation’s decision-makers.

You make a difference.

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It's More Important Than Ever

We recently learned that more students are taking part in the National School Breakfast and School Lunch programs than ever before (with more than 30 million of our kids getting school lunches alone). That’s why it’s never been more critical that we protect strong nutrition standards, and make sure we’re serving the healthiest foods possible to students who rely on school cafeterias for up to half of their daily caloric intake.

It’s also one more reason why we need you to step up and make sure those who oppose healthy school meals hear what we have to say. Tell your lawmaker that the stakes are too high to go back – we must protect strong school nutrition standards. With school cafeterias increasingly taking on a greater responsibility when it comes to nourishing students, we need standards in place that ensure the meals they serve include at least one serving of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less salt.

Healthy meals help prevent childhood obesity, teach good eating habits that will last a lifetime, and boost academic performance.  Please let your representatives know why strong school nutrition standards mean so much to you. In less than a minute, you can make your voice heard and help give our kids the longer, healthier futures they deserve.

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Help Us Send a Wake Up Call

With You’re the Cure on the Hill 2015 fast approaching, we want you to know that you don’t have to be in Washington to make an impact. On May 11th and 12th, we’ll be working with advocates from all 50 states to contact their representatives and urge support for the common-sense, heart-healthy policies we need to reduce and eliminate cardiovascular diseases and stroke. The best part is, all you need to join in is your phone.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be letting you know about a quick, easy, fun way to connect with your lawmakers, friends, and family, and to share why being a You’re the Cure advocates is so important to you. After pledging online to take action, you’ll receive a text message on May 11th with a phone number that will automatically put you in touch with your Member of Congress. After hearing a few key points about why strong school nutrition standards and increased NIH funding are our top priorities, you’ll be patched through to deliver your message personally.

We’ll also be asking you to weigh in on social media, letting your representatives know directly that we’re here to support them on key issues, and hold them accountable when they fall short. The best part is, You’re the Cure advocates from across the country will be visiting congressional offices at the same time, delivering our pro-heart health message in person. We know that with our combined efforts, 2015 will be the best You’re the Cure on the Hill yet. Thanks for your support, and stay tuned for more.

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From the Bottom of our Hearts - Thank You!

National Volunteer Week (April 12-18) is right around the corner and we couldn’t let it pass without saying how much we appreciate all your contributions as a You’re the Cure advocate. It’s advocates like you who give their time, energy, and passion to help create healthier communities across the country.  We are deeply grateful for your commitment and talent as an advocate.

Since staff can’t always shake your hand and say thank you in person we’ve got a brief video to share. When you watch I am sure you too will be moved by all the great work happening in your states and communities and we look forward to more success in the future. Take a moment to check out the video and then encourage other to get involved and join in the fun.

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