Blog post

Ambassadors convene for D.C. education event

For the first time since 2019, AKF hosted our Ambassadors for a day of education and connection called, "D.C. Education Day."
AKF Ambassadors in front of the US Capitol

For the first time since 2019, the American Kidney Fund (AKF) recently gathered our Ambassadors from around the country for a day of education and connection. Dubbed "D.C. Education Day," more than 20 Ambassadors drove and flew in on Oct. 29 for the opportunity to learn, see familiar faces in person and in some cases, meet AKF staff for the first time.

"Due to COVID-19, we have all been meeting on Zoom and most of us had never met in person," said Theresa Caldron of Oklahoma. "It was so fun to get to finally meet each other face to face. For me, since my transplant was right at the beginning of the pandemic, I was not able to attend any group meetings with others who have dealt with kidney disease and/or a kidney transplant."

The daylong event included training on using social media to effectively advocate and on telling your story to legislators, action alert information and overviews of state and federal legislative efforts to advance policy on behalf of the kidney disease community.

Theresa has done many virtual meetings with her members of Congress and attends almost every monthly Ambassador briefing on Zoom. But she only started getting involved in advocacy at the start of the pandemic, so this was her first opportunity to see all her friends.

"I literally had tears in my eyes as I returned to my hotel room after the meeting," said Theresa. "I was finally able to meet, in person, others who understood exactly what I have gone through the last several years. Prior to this meeting, I really felt totally alone sometimes, with no one to understand things from my point of view. To be able to sit in a room full of people who were able to know what you were going to say before you finished your sentence was amazing. I felt like I was part of a community." 

AKF Ambassadors in front of the US Capitol

Part of the programming for the event was a recap of AKF's legislative achievements in 2022. This included a discussion about how the midterm elections were expected to go and what that could mean for the kidney community. Unexpectedly, Michigan now has a governor and majorities in both chambers of its statehouse, all from the same party. This presents a great legislative opportunity since laws are typically passed more easily when the lawmakers are all from the same political party.

"I look forward to working with AKF on the state level in the next year and will do my best to help pass the Living Donor Protection Act in Michigan so that potential living donors don't ever have to worry about losing their jobs, or being denied health and life insurance," said Amy Walker, who has previously attended AKF's in-person Kidney Action Summit.

Amy, who donated a kidney to her father, has been passionate about trying to get living donor protection legislation passed in her state and hopes to take advantage of the surprise opportunity arising from the midterm elections. She also was happy to just spend time with her friends from the kidney community.

"It was so nice to see familiar faces that I hadn't seen in over three years and to hear how everyone has been doing and where they are in their kidney journey," she said.

AKF Ambassador Kyle Chang in front of the US Capitol

Kyle Chang of Chicago is another Ambassador who was new to AKF in-person but has been very heavily involved in advocacy during the pandemic. Kyle has a strong presence on social media and wanted the chance to bounce ideas off other folks.

"Meeting many of the AKF Ambassadors from around the country and having chats in between education sessions and dinner at the end of the day, helped me learn how folks became involved in advocating for kidney disease at different stages and see how diverse our backgrounds are beyond kidney disease," Kyle said.

Want to get involved? You can become an AKF Ambassador and/or contact your elected officials urging them to support current legislation to improve the lives of those living with kidney disease.


Ben Shlesinger

Ben Shlesinger is the associate director of government relations at the American Kidney Fund.