They're tiny. They just helped save Obamacare. And they're not done yet.

6-year-old Timmy Morrison knows where to get the best frozen yogurt and popcorn on Capitol Hill.

He's had time to do his research. For the past six weeks, he's been walking the halls of the Capitol and Senate office buildings with his parents, trying to convince his elected officials not to let hundreds of kids like him die.

Timmy Morrison, left, on a lobbying trip to D.C. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.


Timmy is one of around a dozen "Little Lobbyists" — kids with chronic, lifelong medical conditions who, along with their families, visited the offices of all 100 Senators, dropping off notes and asking for meetings. And they, ultimately, helped kill the Senate's latest push to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In the days leading up to the vote, hundreds of activists, organizers, and ordinary citizens descended on D.C. for a final push against the bill.

The effort led by groups like ADAPT, a disability rights community that staged a series of sit-ins on Capitol Hill and at lawmakers' offices, grassroots Indivisible groups as well as traditional liberal political organs, including MoveOn and Our Revolution.

The "Little Lobbyists" were organized by Timmy's mother Michelle Morrison and friend Elena Hung, first-time activists like so many others, who felt like their children's voices were missing from the health care debate.

"It really is just a handful of families trying to figure out what we can do," Morrison says.

Morrison, a linguist at the University of Maryland, explains that she originally barely noticed her health plan's lifetime million-dollar maximum.

Six days after the Affordable Care Act's ban on denying coverage of pre-existing conditions on children's policies kicked in on Sept. 23, 2010, Timmy was born with Opitz G/BBB syndrome, a rare respiratory disorder that requires him to breathe through a tracheostomy and eat through a feeding tube.

By Christmas, the cost of Timmy's treatment had already surged past $1 million. By the time he was six months old, it had climbed to well over $2 million. The Morrisons still pay thousands of dollars in medical bills annually, but thanks to the ACA, bankruptcy appeared to be off the table.  

Timmy, undergoing treatment at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

With the law in jeopardy, that threat once again became real.

"It feels a lot to us like someone is rolling the dice with our children’s lives and not taking the time to figure out what the impacts are," Morrison explains.

With the right care, which Timmy currently gets at three hospitals in three states, the little lobbyist leads a normal kindergarten life.

In between chatting about robots and pirates, Timmy plays on a local soccer team, which, when treated properly, his condition allows.

Timmy Morrison. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

Even with Morrison's employer-sponsored plan, Timmy is on a waiting list for Medicaid to help with his care. Several versions of the bill threatened deep cuts to Medicaid.

Hence the constant travel to D.C.

"I don’t think he realizes that it’s unusual for a kindergartner to be running around shaking hands with senators," Morrison says.

For Timmy, the trips to the Capitol quickly became routine. Occasionally, he rode in a stroller, since too much walking can aggravate his breathing. The parents brought crayons and special snacks for all the kids.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Facebook.

Between meetings, Timmy spent time coloring in the outlines of the states whose senators' offices he's visited. Some of the older kids, 11 and 9, eventually started engaging staff members themselves, encouraging the younger ones to join in and speak up, Michelle says.

Meanwhile, for the adults, the joyful moments were tempered by frequent dead ends and creeping frustration.

The bipartisan group knew what it wanted any new bill to preserve: protections for pre-existing conditions, a ban on lifetime limits, and most critically, Medicaid funding.

The ever-shifting language of the proposed health care bill, however, often made it difficult to determine what arguments to present in meetings. "It’s like trying to catch soap," Morrison says.

Meeting with Senator Tammy Duckworth. Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

The Senate's recent successful "motion to proceed" vote left the group "heartbroken, terrified, furious."

"We must now watch as the Senate takes as little time as it possibly can to decide the fate of our children," Morrison and Hung wrote in a blog post published the day of the vote.

The parents and children pressed on. The group spent the next few days engaged in a final push, thanking GOP Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for their no votes and lobbying hard for more.

On the afternoon of the final vote, they finally secured their first in-person meeting with a Republican senator — Jeff Flake of Arizona.

After tucking Timmy in on the night of Thursday, July 28, Morrison drove alone to D.C. to join Hung at what the pair expected would be a vigil.

Photo via Little Lobbyists/Twitter.

29 minutes after 1 a.m., it turned into a celebration of relief, when John McCain cast the decisive "no" vote on the bill.

The crowd outside the Capitol burst into cheers and tears of joy.

The surprise victory left Morrison feeling "pretty fabulous. And overwhelmed."

Their efforts had suffered dozens of setbacks in recent months. The House bill that was killed, then resurrected from the dead. The Senate bill, which was destroyed and reformed so many times. The crushing affirmative "motion to proceed" just two days earlier.

This, after all that, was sweet.

As Morrison and Hung wrote on their blog, dusting off and continuing to fight against the odds is nothing new for families like theirs.

"Our children have taught us well."

Corrections 8/1/2017 — The article incorrectly referred to Michelle Morrison as a linguistics professor at the University of Maryland. She is a linguist. Additionally, it stated that Timmy Morrison depended on Medicaid for part of his care. He is currently on a waiting list for the program. Other members of the Little Lobbyists do rely on Medicaid.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

As Canada's women's soccer team prepares for its gold medal match against Sweden this week in Tokyo, it also prepares to make history as the first Olympic team to have an openly transgender, non-binary athlete win a medal at the games.

Quinn, the 25-year-old midfielder, announced their non-binary identity on social media last September, adopting they/them pronouns and a singular name. Quinn said they'd been living openly as a transgender person with their loved ones, but this was their first time coming out publicly.

"I want to be visible to queer folks who don't see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago," they wrote. "I want to challenge cis folks ( if you don't know what cis means, that's probably you!!!) to be better allies."

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