Elena Hung and the Little Lobbyists

Changing Hearts and Minds on Capitol Hill

Elena Hung co-founded the advocacy organization Little Lobbyists at a friend’s kitchen table “by accident.” It was June 2017 and she was terrified the Affordable Care Act would be repealed, leaving families like hers, whose children have complex medical needs, defenseless and bankrupt.

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“I felt like I had to do something,” she says.

The Maryland resident and a few other parents decided to take their kids – with their wheelchairs, ventilators, oxygen tanks, and feeding tubes in tow – to Capitol Hill so members of Congress could see exactly what was at stake.

“I believe in putting a face on an issue,” she says. “I believe in the power of stories.”

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“None of us had prior lobbying experience but in the hospital we learned to advocate for our children. It was a natural transition to political advocacy.”

Hung’s daughter Xiomara was one of the original Little Lobbyists. Now four years old and thriving, she was born with ten pre-existing conditions and still uses a tracheostomy to breathe and a feeding tube for all of her nutrition.

But that’s not how Elena introduces Xiomara. “I would always say she’s four and loves Sesame Street. Everyone knows a four-year old, and everyone loves Sesame Street, so already we’ve established a connection, and I have made this personal.”

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In just one year, the Little Lobbyists have spent countless days on the Hill and visited all 100 Senate offices. They collected stories from families with medically complex children across the country, and shared them with members of Congress.

“Every time they vote, I want them to think about the Little Lobbyists children,” Hung says.

Advocacy isn’t always easy. “Before the Little Lobbyists, I didn’t really consider myself an activist, certainly not in this public way. I am a very private person. But when you have spent as much time in hospitals watching your kid fight for her life as I have, you don’t just stay quiet and hope for the best.”

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Her advice to other families: “There is room for all of us in advocacy. There is no one right way to do it, but you have to do something.”

The most important thing, she says, is finding your voice. “We are proudly reclaiming the label of lobbyist,” she says. “We have no money, but we’re constituents telling our stories and speaking to issues that affect us. That’s our power.”