A few months ago, Hunter VanBrocklin was barely managing a 1 mile-per-hour pace on the treadmill. That was before his surgery to treat hip dysplasia.
“I went past 1 mph already. Say good-bye,” brags Hunter, who’s not only managing a brisk 3 miles-per-hour pace, but also recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. for Family Advocacy Day. The annual event brings families from children’s hospitals across the U.S. to the capital to meet with their senators and representatives to share their medical stories and encourage lawmakers to improve access to high-quality pediatric care.
This year, Boston Children’s staff and families sought to secure sponsorship for the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act of 2015, a bill that makes it easier for children with medically complex conditions who rely on Medicaid to get the care they need at children’s hospitals, especially when they have to cross state lines.
Hunter, who has cerebral palsy, tackled the assignment like a champ, meeting with four lawmakers from his home state of Maine to ask for their support: U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin.
Hunter proved he has what it takes to lobby even the most distractible politicians. Congressman Poliquin was so excited to meet Hunter and his sidekick and service dog Wendy the Great Dane that they almost forgot to talk about the legislation. But Hunter was a taskmaster. “I made sure we made it to the topic,” he says. “We need him to get on our train.”
Hunter’s elected officials each expressed support for the concept of the bill. Within days of meeting Hunter, Senator King formally signed on as a cosponsor of the ACE Kids Ace. The entire VanBrocklin family is eagerly watching to see if the other three lawmakers from Maine will follow suit.
In addition to visiting Congress, the VanBrocklin family took in the sights of the nation’s capital. Hunter bypassed the handicap ramp at the Lincoln Memorial, opting to climb all 57 steps instead; learned what it takes to be a spy as they crawled through vents at the International Spy Museum and toured the Capital.
Now back home in Maine, Hunter is keeping up with the hard work of physical therapy and savoring some favorite summer pastimes — picking berries, hiking with Wendy and his family, swimming and eating ice cream.
Learn more about the ACE Kids Act.