Trading cards, secret service and a tasty ice cream sandwich given to him by a Congressman were among the highlights of Donovan Stringer’s recent trip to Washington, D.C.
Stringer and his parents, Lisa and Kevin, were guests of Akron Children’s Hospital for 2 days in the nation’s capital as part of Family Advocacy Day. Patient families from 30 children’s hospitals around the country spent June 26-27 advocating to legislators about pertinent pediatric healthcare issues. Donovan is a 9-year-old cancer survivor from Warren treated by our Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders. (Check out the story on Twitter by the Showers Center.)
“The Stringers were naturals and shared a very powerful message with our elected officials,” said Charlie Solley, director of government relations, Akron Children’s Hospital. “They stressed the importance of care at a children’s hospital, the importance of health coverage, including Medicaid, and importantly the child-centered culture they experienced through Donovan’s own healthcare journey.”
One of the first lawmakers Donovan met on the trip was Rep. Tim Ryan from his home district, who invited Donovan to join him on the House floor while he voted on a bill. While there, Donovan was introduced to long-time Democratic colleague, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.
“I thought it was really great that Congressman Ryan made it a point to introduce Donovan to Congressman Lewis, who is a living part of civil rights history,” Kevin Stringer said. “It choked me up a little bit that he thought enough to do that. So Donovan is on the voting floor of the House of Representatives and his big takeaway was that Congressman Ryan afterward bought him an ice cream sandwich.”
Rep. Ryan also shared something else of value with Donovan.
“He gave me his phone number and asked me to keep him updated about my health,” Donovan said.
Donovan and his fellow patients from around the country were each given customized trading cards with their photos on the front, and their diagnoses and hometown hospitals on the back. Children used them as icebreakers when they met with legislators, but they also shared them with each other as they made friends and exchanged contact information.
Other legislators Donovan met included Rep. Bill Johnson from Ohio’s 6th district, as well as U.S. Senators from Ohio, Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman.
He also had a few brushes with the Executive branch when he toured the Eisenhower executive office adjacent to the West Wing, saw Marine One fly overhead and witnessed the lengths the Secret Service go to protect the president.
“The White House was really cool,” he said. “It had really high security. You could see even the Secret Service on the roof with their guns and stuff.”
Lisa Stringer said she was impressed with the event.
“Even though it was political in nature, they really made it all about the kids,” she said. “And while many of the parents did a lot of the talking on behalf of their children, Donovan spoke for himself and made us very proud doing so.”