As he visited Capitol Hill in late June, Lambert High School senior Reid Pickering knew he was participating in something important, something to be proud of.
Pickering was one of more than 70 teens who visited the hill to tell their story and advocate for loved ones suffering from cystic fibrosis, a rare genetic disease.
As part of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s 10th Annual Teen Advocacy Day, teens from all over the country traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with elected officials and talk to them about how Cystic fibrosis (CF) has affected people in their life. According to a news release by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, CF progressively limits the ability to breathe, is ultimately fatal, and affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States.
When Pickering’s older brother John was diagnosed with CF years ago, the 17-year-old says he was too young to do anything about it.
But now, he has found the number of ways he can advocate for his brother has grown dramatically. He said that when he first heard about the trip, he knew it was something he could do.
"When I heard about teen advocacy days, I just decided to do it," he said. "I thought it was a great opportunity to advocate for my brother because I could never really do anything while I was younger."
In Washington D.C., Pickering was able to meet with several members of Congress and congressional staff including, Rep. Rob Woodall and Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia. He said they had nearly an hour with each person to talk about a number of different issues surrounding CF, like the “importance of Medicaid and the individual insurance market, preserving critical patient protections and maintaining robust funding for the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration.”
"Any advocation you can do for the disease is great,” he said. "It does help improve the future for patients with CF ... It was great advocating for my brother."
The release states that over its 10 years, the Annual Teen Advocacy Day has grown in its participation, becoming an important part in fighting for “adequate and affordable health care for people with CF, as well as funding for CF drug research and development.”
Beyond advocating lawmakers, Pickering added that it was great to be around a group of young people that like him knew firsthand the effects of CF.
"It doesn't only affect the person that has it, it affects the whole family and everyone who knows them," Pickering said. "It was really just heartwarming to know that there are other people going through the same exact thing and be able to talk to them about it."
After the day on the hill, Pickering said the group reunited for a dinner to talk about who they had met and how things had gone.
"It was a really fun experience,” he said. “I'm definitely going to do it next year too."