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OUR VIEW: One family's story makes a difference

A Woodbury Bulletin reporter conducted a rare interview with Amy Klobuchar last week. It was just five minutes or so, a quick, albeit important, break from a busy day for one of our U.S. senators from Minnesota. She called from Washington because she knows Kitty Westin, and the reporter listened because what Klobuchar and Westin are doing might just impact Woodbury in a powerful way.

One family’s story can make a huge difference.

Westin, a St. Louis Park resident, became an advocate for the Emily Program the day after her daughter died. Anna Westin was one of at least 30 million people who suffer from an eating disorder. She died from hers. Chances are that we all know someone with an eating disorder, but most of us don’t realize how prevalent and devastating eating disorders can be. Westin hopes that because of her work there are fewer people who lose their loved ones to bulimia, anorexia or binge eating.

The reality is this: at least every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result of suffering an eating disorder.

The trickledown effects of Westin’s work — raising funds for programs, running therapy groups, and lobbying in Washington and across the nation — is about to change the Woodbury area in a big way. The Emily Program, one of the two major Twin Cities organizations battling eating disorders, has an office along Bielenberg Drive where clients will greatly benefit from federal health insurance guidelines on which Klobuchar has spent four years working. The bipartisan bill is meant to require insurance companies to allow those suffering from eating disorders to get the help they need. The bill, should it become law, also requires public service announcements — a PR campaign, if you will — to help educate the public on eating disorders that are largely misunderstood or unknown.

Feb. 21-27 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, when your local newspaper will attempt to put a local human face on an otherwise anonymous disorder.

Westin is just one of the stories we can share. As a mother and supporter of a local business that helps your neighbors, she has spent 16 years lobbying and telling her story, putting her pain to good use, and this might be the year the bill passes into law.

We’re planning on writing about eating disorders, the Emily Program, Klobuchar’s bill, and a success story in Woodbury. If you know someone with an eating disorder and together you seek help, the next success story could be yours.

Read more next week.