66 New Members Headed to Congress

The 2020 election not only resulted in a new President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, but also 64 new Members of Congress.

RDLA Opens Registration and Announces Finalists for the 2020 RareVoice Awards


Last month the rare disease community nominated advocates who give rare disease patients a voice on Capitol Hill and in state government for the Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA) annual RareVoice Awards. After deliberation by the 2020 RareVoice Nominations Committee, RDLA has officially announced the finalists for the 2020 RareVoice Awards and opened registration to all who wish to attend this exciting virtual event.

The awardee for each category will be announced live at the virtual RareVoice Awards on December 10, 2020 at 7:00pm ET. The evening will celebrate rare disease advocates who make their voices heard year-round to advance policies that benefit the rare disease community.

To join this unique celebration and invite your member of Congress, please visit www.RareVoiceAwards.org.

If you have any questions about the RareVoice Awards, please contact Shannon von Felden, RDLA Program Director, at svonfelden@everylifefoundation.org.


Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA) is pleased to announce the establishment of the RDLA Advisory Committee


Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA), a program of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, is pleased to announce the establishment of the RDLA Advisory Committee. The RDLA Advisory Committee will work together to ensure that everyone in the rare disease community has a voice and can make an impact on legislation and policy. The Committee of eight members and the RDLA Program Director will meet four times a year to collaborate and serve the rare disease community’s needs in advocacy efforts as well as provide guidance, feedback, and counsel on RDLA activities and events.

Our inaugural RDLA Advisory Committee is made up of a diverse group of fierce advocates from across the United States.

  1. Allison Bones, T.E.A.M. 4 Travis
  2. Lisa Deck, Sisters@Heart
  3. Kathi Luis, Amyloidosis Foundation
  4. Andre Marcel
  5. Sarah Tompkins, EDS Northwest
  6. Tonya Prince, Sickle Cell Association of Houston, Inc.
  7. Steve Smith, WCG Clinical
  8. Marc Yale, International Pemphigus Pemphigoid Foundation

Learn more about the RDLA Advisory Committee and its members at www.rareadvocates.org/about-us/rdla-advisory-committee/.

Stay Informed for the 2020 Election!

RDLA Opens 2020 RareVoice Award Nominations

The RareVoice Awards nominations for 2020 are now open. We encourage the community to nominate individuals and organizations who have gone above and beyond to become rare disease policy leaders, having passed or supported legislation for the rare disease community at the state and federal level. There is even a category for teenagers/young adults who have made a big impact. This year we introduce a new awards category called Artist-to-Advocate. This category is designed to recognize individuals who have utilized their artwork to advocate for federal or state legislation.


The 2020 RareVoice Awards categories are:

Federal Advocacy—Congressional Staff

Federal Advocacy—Patient/Organization

State Advocacy—State Legislator

State Advocacy—Patient/Organization

Federal or State Advocacy by a Teenager



The RareVoice Awards nominations will close on Tuesday, September 8th. Please submit your nominees for the RareVoice Awards at www.rareadvocates.org/rarevoice-awards.


The RareVoice Awards celebration will take place on December 10, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. ET to honor advocates who give rare disease patients a voice on Capitol Hill. 2020 marks the 9th year of the RareVoice Awards, which will be held virtually.


Award recipients are chosen by committee from nominations received from the rare disease community. Awardees receive an “Abbey” statuette commissioned specially for the RareVoice Awards, and named for Abbey Meyers, founder of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). This is a free and widely attended event.


If you have any questions about the RareVoice Awards, please contact Shannon von Felden, RDLA Program Director, at svonfelden@everylifefoundation.org.

RDLA and SmithSolve Launch Fast Forward for RARE

Earlier this year, hundreds of advocates representing every state gathered in Washington, DC for the Rare Disease Week Legislative Conference. Their energy and enthusiasm raised the roof, as they shared experiences and prepared to visit their legislators on Capitol Hill.

What a difference a pandemic makes. We replaced our daily routines with the mostly quieter reality of sheltering at home. When it comes to living with a rare disorder, however, there is no pause button. The needs and concerns of rare disease families and communities continue, and often grow. Access to healthcare providers and treatment facilities is more challenging for patients and caregivers alike.

As the world pauses for COVID-19, it is more important than ever to raise awareness, push for new legislation, and insist on continued investment in rare disease research. In short, we need to Fast Forward for RARE.

But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the advocates – strong and courageous people who live with rare disorders, care for family members, lead and serve patient communities, and honor the lives of angels. People with diverse experiences, including Tanya, Heather, Netanel, Lynn, Chris, Eddie, Felicia, Gabriel, and many more.

This year for the first time, SmithSolve partnered with Rare Disease Legislative Associates to introduce Fast Forward for RARE, a new video suite created to prepare rare disease advocates to tell their story with impact and inspire action. We shared lessons gained from leading the “practice your pitch” workshop at each of the last four legislative conferences. Advocates had the opportunity to practice their pitch on camera, receive personalized feedback, and apply what they learned on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Now, you can listen to their stories by visiting FastForwardforRARE.org. Hearing directly from rare disease advocates is a powerful experience that reminds us that living with a rare disease isn’t rare at all. While every person and every disorder is unique, collectively more than 350 million people in the rare disease community worldwide face common challenges.

Interested in joining the conversation? Register for Rare Across America, then enroll in the Fast Forward for RARE webinar taking place on Tues., July 21, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. ET. You’ll receive tips and coaching to help you share your story with impact and inspire action. Together we can advance important legislation, improve understanding of rare diseases, and support development of new treatments.

Fast Forward for RARE is sponsored by SmithSolve and Rare Disease Legislative Advocates. To learn more, visit www.FastForwardforRARE.com.


Register for Rare Across America

This summer, rare disease advocates across the country have the opportunity to meet with their federal legislators close to home in the state and district offices. You can make an impact on federal policy, share your rare disease story, and meet other rare disease advocates! Registration for Rare Across America is now open till July 3rd.

Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA) staff organizes meetings for rare disease advocates with their Members of Congress and/or the Member’s staff. The meetings take place in the Member’s district office during the month of August, while Congress is in recess from August 3rd to September 7th, 2020. The RDLA team also helps to prepare advocates for their meetings, providing legislative resource materials and hosting pre-meeting training webinars.

No prior advocacy experience is necessary.

Registration for this event and all RDLA events are free for rare disease advocates.


For more information, visit www.RareAcrossAmerica.org.

SAVE THE DATE: The Rare Across America training webinar will take place on July 9th at 2 pm EST and a special Social Media training webinar will take place on July 14th at 1:00 pm EST.

900 Patients and Families Attend Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020

More than 900 patients and families from across the country attended Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020 from February 25th – 28th, an annual event hosted by the Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA). The Week featured events designed to educate and activate advocates and to foster relationships within the community. Advocates representing 227 patient organizations participated in 393 meetings with Members of Congress in one day.

“This year was by far our biggest Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill. The event has grown each year since it started in 2012,” said EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases Executive Director Julia Jenkins. “We are witnessing a surge of engagement from the rare disease community. These advocates are energized and are demanding more treatment and diagnostic opportunities. They know it’s possible, and they can’t afford to wait.”

Thanks to their efforts, at least nine Members of Congress joined the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus, including: Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (MO-5), Rep. Antonio R. Delgado (NY-19), Senator Charles Grassley (IA), Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Rep. Bob Latta (OH-5), Rep. Ted Lieu (CA-33), Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-5), and Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2). These new Members bring the number of Rare Disease Congressional Caucus members to 170. In addition, various pieces of legislation impacting the community received increased support.

One in 10 Americans suffers from one of 7,000 known rare diseases. A disease is defined as rare when it affects fewer than 200,000.  Ninety-three percent of the 7,000 known rare diseases have no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies. Fifty percent of rare disease patients are children.

The RDLA is a program of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases designed to support the advocacy of all rare disease patients and organizations.

View the Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020 photos, videos and wrap up.

Registration Now Open for Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020

You are invited to join more than 800 advocates for Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020 from February 25th to 28th. Registration is now OPEN for all the events during this exciting and powerful week in Washington, DC. Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill brings rare disease community members from across the country together to be educated on federal legislative issues, meet other advocates, and share their unique stories with legislators. 

Please view the events below and register! Attendance at the Legislative Conference on February 26th is required in order to attend the Hill Day on February 27th. Please note that if you are bringing a spouse or caregiver, you must register each person for each event they plan to attend. If you are bringing a child or children, please add them to your own registration where indicated.

Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill includes the following events, all of which are free for patients, caregivers and other advocates.

  • Monday, February 24th: Rare Disease Day Public Meeting at FDA in Silver Spring, MD. Look out for more information on registration from FDA.
  • Tuesday, February 25th, 12:30-1:30 pm: Rare Disease Caucus Briefing, Russell Senate Office Building, Room 325.
  • Tuesday, February 25th, 5:30 – 9:30 pm: Cocktail Reception and Rare Disease Documentary Screening at the Ronald Reagan Building.
  • Wednesday, February 26th, 8:00 am – 4:45 pm: Legislative Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building. Every person participating in the Legislative Conference and Hill Day will need to register for the event including young adults.
  • Wednesday, February 26th, 6:00 pm: Young Adults Meet-Up at the Rare Hub.
  • Thursday, February 27th, 7:00 – 8:30 am: Hill Day Breakfast at the Ronald Reagan Building.
  • Thursday, February 27th, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm: Scheduled Meetings with Members of the House and Senate on Capitol Hill. Hill schedules will be distributed at the Legislative Conference on Monday.
  • Thursday, February 27th, 5:00 -7:00 pm: Rare Artist Reception in the Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902.
  • Friday, February 28th, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm: Rare Disease Day at NIH in Bethesda, MD. Register on the NIH website.

Attendees need to make their own travel arrangements including hotel reservations. For convenience, there is a courtesy hotel room block at the Washington Plaza Hotel for $199 per night plus taxes. To book a room with the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases room block, please visit the hotel website. We encourage you to watch our webinar to learn more about traveling to Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill.

To help you prepare for Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill, we suggest you join us for a free webinar on February 13th at 1 pm EST/10 am PST. You will learn helpful tips such as what to wear and what to bring for each event, and where to find additional resources.

Also, we invite you to watch this previously recorded webinar that provides you with an introduction and overview of the events during Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill.

Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020

Rare Disease Legislative Advocates (RDLA), a program of the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, will bring together over 800 patients, caregivers, and others in Washington, DC for a week of events dedicated to empowering patients, families, friends, and healthcare professionals to become legislative advocates. During the week of February 25-28, 2020, rare disease advocates will have an opportunity to meet with Members of Congress and to learn about policy updates and best practices for successful advocacy.

Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020 kicks off on February 25th with a Rare Disease Congressional Caucus lunch briefing followed by a documentary screening and cocktail reception in the evening.

Rare disease advocates will attend the all-day Legislative Conference on February 26th to learn about federal legislation and policies that affect the rare disease community. Policy experts from Capitol Hill, non-profit organizations, and industry will share their expertise with advocates. In addition, advocacy professionals will provide opportunities for participants to refine techniques for effective advocacy on the Hill and building strong relationships with their Members of Congress.

On February 27th, a Hill Day breakfast will be held with keynote speakers. After breakfast, 500 rare disease advocates will go to Capitol Hill to meet with their Senators, Representatives, and Congressional staffers to discuss key legislation, policies and the Rare Disease Congressional Caucus. Later in the evening, the Rare Artist Reception will feature the 2019 Rare Artist contest winning artwork and highlight the importance of art as therapy for rare disease patients.

We will close out the week at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. On February 28th, the NIH will host Rare Disease Day at NIH. This event aims to raise awareness about rare diseases, the people they affect, and NIH research collaborations to advance new treatments. The EveryLife Foundation will be there to meet patients and provide information on their programs as well.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a Rare Disease Day public meeting at the FDA White Oak Campus in Silver Spring, MD on Monday, February 24th.

Registration for Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill begins on January 3, 2020. Information on Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill 2020, the week’s events and locations, travel and hotel accommodations, and registration for the event can be found at rareadvocates.org/rdw.

We are excited for this powerful week of events and to continue to advocate with the rare disease community.