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Strolling Thunder!

In the middle of the day, more than 400 people gathered for a stroll around the Capitol grounds. Matthew Melmed, executive director at ZERO TO THREE, joined Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Colonel David Osborne from Council for a Strong America, and Jamie Bussel from RWJF to address the crowd.

by Amanda Perez, Senior Advocacy Specialist, ZERO TO THREE

Barbara Bremner is the executive director of Early Childhood Iowa in Polk County—and a member of ZERO TO THREE. She has a special interest in policy issues for little kids, saying: “What gets me going is being able to spread that interest.” So at the Rally for Babies at the Annual Conference in New Orleans last December, she was excited to hear about ZERO TO THREE’s new partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Think Babies™ campaign, focused on making babies a national priority.

Fast forward 5 months to a stunning day on Capitol Hill. On May 2, National Baby Day, ZERO TO THREE brought a family with a baby from every state and the District of Columbia to Capitol Hill to tell their elected officials to Think Babies™. During the event, called Strolling Thunder™, the families visited with their members of Congress to put real stories and (adorable!) faces to the messages of the campaign: that brain development during the first few months and years of life has an enormous impact on how children learn and grow throughout their lifetime and that investing in babies and toddlers is one of the most important things we can do to raise healthy, well-rounded adults. Families, accompanied by staff and ZERO TO THREE Board members, met with more than 150 members of Congress and their staff. In the middle of the day, more than 400 people gathered for a stroll around the Capitol grounds. Matthew Melmed, executive director at ZERO TO THREE, joined Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Colonel David Osborne from Council for a Strong America, and Jamie Bussel from RWJF to address the crowd. Families decorated strollers, and children waved signs that said “My Brain is Growing Faster than Yours,” and “I Had a Bawl on Capitol Hill.” Later that night, families took another opportunity to reinforce their messages at a reception with members of Congress, staffers, and celebrity photographer and dad, Nigel Barker.

Barbara was there, too, in the middle of it all! A few months earlier, ZERO TO THREE sent out an alert to Iowa members to say we were looking for a family from Iowa to participate in Strolling Thunder™. Barbara knew just the one. Her friend and colleague, Michelle, who does similar work in Iowa, has the same spirit for advocacy and a 6-month-old daughter, Ada. The three of them traveled to DC together. Barbara was proud to be a ZERO TO THREE member at the event, which she found creative and compelling. She was particularly struck by the care and respect with which families were treated. “The whole time, everyone on the team had the best interests of the families in mind,” she says, “And that provided energy for the hard work that families did in talking with strangers about their babies!”

Capitol Hill was not the only place where there was activity! Both social and traditional media were popping with news about the event! On Twitter alone, #ThinkBabies and #StrollingThunder messages reached a potential 20 million people. Strolling Thunder was featured in national news, as well as local news all over the country, from New York City to San Antonio, TX, to Medford, OR, to Phoenix, AZ, to Anchorage, AK.

Thank you for all you did to help make Strolling Thunder™ a success, from identifying families to sharing the event with friends and colleagues, to joining us on social media. We hope you will continue to lend your voice as ZERO TO THREE’s policy team works with Congressional offices to build on the education and insight that Strolling Thunder™ provided. Barbara hopes that other members share her enthusiasm for advocacy. She sees a particularly essential and unique role for you: “ZERO TO THREE members are in a position to help families share their stories with elected officials—on either side of the aisle—who want to hear from their constituents, but often don’t have the opportunity,” she says. Check out our Think Babies Take Action Toolkit for strategies to help. Together, we can motivate Congress to make babies our national—and state and local!—priority.

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