Capitol Hill briefings are a dime a dozen. While they are a great way to educate Congressional staff, researchers, government relations professionals and other stakeholders about the issue du jour, everyone knows the big draws are speakers and food. I recently had the opportunity to attend two briefings that had the trifecta of great substance, engaging speakers, and free food!
Lunch was provided while attending a briefing on the Value of Rehabilitation and Habilitation Services and Devices. The briefing focused on the impact those services including therapy, prosthetics, and assistive devices have in improving the lives of those who rely on them. Among the panelists, Eric LeGrand, a former Rutgers football star with spinal cord injury and Roseann Sdoia, a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. They shared their personal testimonials of injury, habilitation, rehabilitation, and recovery. LeGrand told the audience that everyone who needs such devices should have access to them, including the treadmill and harness that he has utilized during his rehabilitation journey. Sdoia shared that she was fortunate to have donations, insurance, and other support to assist in her recovery which includes covering the cost of a $100,000 prosthetic leg which will have to be replaced and $60,000 in sockets for the prosthetic in the four short years since her injury.
The second briefing that day not only included dessert, but featured celebrity Chef Robert Irvine as emcee of the event where the Walmart Foundation announced a $1 million grant to Hire Heroes USA to support their efforts to support veterans find meaningful employment – an endeavor encountered by many local Goodwill organizations. Chef Irvine established the Robert Irvine Foundation to support military personnel and their families and has been given distinguished awards and recognition for his work. Brian Stann, the CEO of Hire Heroes USA was on hand and spoke about the challenges faced by combat veterans like him. I was invited with my colleagues as a representative of other organizations that support veterans and military families.
I was struck while attending these events how the speakers personal experiences helped shape the advocates that they have become. None of them set out thinking that they would be roaming the Halls of Congress, meeting with lawmakers, and making impassioned pleas to support their issues. Stories are powerful and you don’t have to be a celebrity to make a difference. What life event or part of your upbringing helped shape you and the issues that you care about?
In the coming weeks, we’ll be collecting stories about the impact of programs and services offered by local Goodwill organizations. Be sure to register with our Legislative Action Center in order to receive more details and your story may be chosen to be a part of a future advocacy campaign.