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U2FP's Blog > Keeping you current on the movement to cure paralysis

Ms. Ruby Goes to Madison

Adult white man and pre-teen white girl look straight faced at camera

Above: Ryan Romine with his daughter, Ruby, at the Wisconsin Capitol last week. Ruby is a member of the junior Roller Derby team Frostbite in MN. Her derby name is Deadpan. 


Wisconsin legislators met last week to finalize their budget priorities before the summer recess, and we wanted to be there to make sure they were keeping our proposed $3M SCI Research Grant bill top of mind.

Unfortunately, none of our Wisconsin CAN advocates were able to make it to the capitol. Additionally, U2FP’s primary CAN ambassadors - Matthew Rodreick and Jason Stoffer - were both headed to Ohio to present on CAN’s impact in that state, at Ohio State University’s one-day conference on SCI research

We needed boots on the ground. So I volunteered to step out from behind my usual role here as Content Manager, and put on an advocacy hat. I drafted my 11-year-old daughter, Ruby, to come with me for two days of legislative door knocking and strategy meetings.

I figured it was a good opportunity to educate her on the democratic process, and utilize her sullen, pre-teen intimidation tactics for our advantage. She vowed not to smile for any photos with legislators until our bill has passed.


Our first day at the capitol was spent spreading the word about our bill to legislators who weren’t yet aware of it. Our second day consisted of strategy meetings with our co-authors and Republican leadership in order to secure a concrete path and timeline for getting our bill pushed to the floor of the legislature for a final vote. 

Ruby was a stoic champ through it all. She didn't complain and took occasional notes from our conversations while giving me feedback on how interested or sincere different legislators seemed after we’d left their office.

She was tired at the end of each day and acknowledged that advocacy work is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I reminded her that neither of us live with a spinal cord injury. “Imagine how much more effort it takes for folks who are injured, like Jason - who you’ve met - to show up for this kind of work repeatedly,” I said. “I know,” she responded. “That’s what I was saying.” Then she rolled her eyes. It was a teachable moment, I think. 

While our appreciation for the hard work of advocacy was deepening, our presence seemed to be having an impact. Rep. Paul Tittl, our co-author in the Assembly had this to say about U2FP's efforts: “In my entire career as a lawmaker, I’ve never seen a group work as hard or as effectively as yours.”

The next day, Sen. Van Wanggaard’s staff member, Chad Taylor, chimed in with his own kudos: “Some parents take their kids to Disney World in the summer; Ruby, your dad brought you to the Wisconsin capitol. You folks are amazing. God bless you all.”

While this enthusiasm was encouraging, Ruby’s stone-cold face was a reminder that words only matter when they are accompanied by action. 

By the end of our two-day run, Ruby and I visited over 30 legislators' offices and gained meaningful commitments from our co-authors in the Assembly and Senate (Rep. Paul Tittl and Sen. Van Wanggaard) as well as leadership on the Joint Finance Committee, the Senate President and the Senate Majority Leader. 

These meetings were supplemented by ongoing text and phone conversations between myself, Matthew Rodreick, Jason Stoffer, Jake Beckstrom and Lucia Webb. I also talked at length with Chad Taylor, Sen. Wanggaard’s staff member who made numerous phone calls to Republican leadership on our behalf while we were there. He dedicated a substantial portion of his busy schedule to ensuring our visit was a success.

The Payoff
At the end of the second day, we received verbal confirmation from Republican leadership that our proposed legislation will be referred to the floor in early September. This is the earliest possible opportunity for our bill to be voted on and passed. But we’re not taking anything for granted, so get ready. We’ll need you to raise your voice to help turn these verbals into votes toward the end of August.

Let's keep our focus and get this done.


Ryan Romine, Content Manager


PS -  We added another monthly donor over the weekend! Giving monthly has been a game-changer for our growth and influence as a voice for the SCI Community. If you value U2FP's impact consider becoming a monthly donor today. Help us fuel the movement for functional recovery after spinal cord injury!