Jeanine Grimaldi, 24, is an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. Below is her account of the Ambassador training at this year’s Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C.
A few months ago I became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. Through this role, I am assigned to a specific district to focus my advocacy efforts. I live in District 9 in NYC, whose representative is Congressman Anthony Weiner. I attended the 23rd annual Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum on May 14th to meet other ambassadors and advocates throughout the country.
Saturday morning, I arrived at the ambassador meeting. I was expecting to not find many young people there, but was still overwhelmed when I first walked in and at first, didn’t see many people around my age.
We first heard from Drew Littman, Chief of Staff for Congressman Al Franken who gave a great presentation on how we should approach our meetings on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. I had an appointment scheduled with Congressman Weiner’s health legislative assistant on May 17 and Mr. Littman’s presentation proved helpful.
John Funderburk, Director of Advocacy for the Alzheimer’s Association, then explained the importance of knowing our districts in order for effective outreach.
Mary Richards, Senior Director of Federal Affairs, gave us a briefing on the Hope for Alzheimer’s Act and the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act. These are two very important pieces of legislation that if passed, would help Alzheimer’s patients and their families.
Throughout the ambassador training session I looked around for other young ambassadors. A kind smile flashed across the room at me, as if in acknowledgement that we were here for the same reason.
That smile, belonged to Suzette Armijo, head of the junior committee at the Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. It wasn’t until the next night, at the young advocate’s reception, where I was able to speak to Suzette at length and share stories.
The most important takeaway during the forum for me was that Alzheimer’s is not “an old person’s” disease. The young advocate’s reception proved that there is a growing number of young adults are affected by this disease.
It is the compassion and enthusiasm that I saw in Suzette, and members of all ages at the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Forum this week, which will help me, reinforce my fight against Alzheimer’s in New York.
I would highly recommend becoming an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a chance to turn a family’s feelings of helplessness towards this disease, into hopefulness for an Alzheimer’s free future.
Jeanine blogs about her experience at sundaykindoflovealz.tumblr.com. You can follow her on twitter at @sundayloveALZ.