I am sitting at Cafe Kopí, waiting for Adani Sanchez to join me. I wanted to interview her first for this series because people said that we would get along well. If first impressions are correct, I think we will. At 27, Sanchez and I are close in age. She’s also been chatting with the barista and people in line, who she seems to know. Her big smile and loud laugh remind me of myself. 

Sanchez has lived in Champaign-Urbana for four years. She’s originally from Texas and moved here with her partner, Eristeo, who’s a graduate student at the U of I. Her favorite restaurants in C-U are Maize and Fernando’s Tacos food truck. Sanchez is the Client Services Coordinator at Champaign County Healthcare Consumers. She’s also involved in the Champaign County Young Democrats and wrestles in CLAW - Champaign Ladies Amateur Wrestling.

Smile Politely: What are you doing at Champaign County Healthcare Consumers (CCHCC) to build a better community?

Adani Sanchez: Essentially we help people gain access to insurance. That includes applications, information and options like ACA or Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare and the places to go to get care. I get to work directly with people. So when you make an appointment, you get to meet with me. I’m also support staff for community organizing. Our most important advocacy efforts at CCHCC deal with defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). States are getting ideas to require work permits for Medicaid which would take healthcare away from a lot of people.

SP: Why did you want to work at CCHCC and why do you continue to work there?

Sanchez: I’m a people person. I enjoy interacting with people and direct service, and also being part of a team. I like to help people with problems and questions that don’t get answered other places and help them navigate the healthcare system. I also have a high interest in politics and policy. At CCHCC I have learned a lot about healthcare policy and see effects of that directly on people.

SP: What makes CCHCC a unique organization?  What is special about working there?

Sanchez: It's amazing because we directly interact with people through task forces and then turn around and advocate to state partners. The people who work at CCHCC are passionate about people in our community and how policies affect them. Everyone goes above and beyond. For example, our Executive Director does direct service with people, which doesn’t happen many places.

SP: What makes you laugh?

Sanchez: Everything! My cat, my partner, my friends, good comedy, bad comedy — it all makes me laugh.  

SP: What's your favorite funny story about yourself?   

Sanchez: In middle school, I got in-school suspension (ISS) for posting flyers demanding the release of my friend from ISS for gluing pennies to the floor. I was a pretty good kid so all the teachers were surprised to see that I was in ISS. Some of them even came to visit me. My favorite part was having to get a hall pass from the ISS supervisor to get my photo taken because I had been chosen as the Wildcat of the Week during my stint in ISS. My parents tell that story as the beginning of my political involvement.

SP: Let’s talk about Champaign County Young Democrats.

Sanchez: Alright, so I have to be sure to say on record that this part of the conversation is not reflective of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, which is a 501c3. These are my personal opinions and actions, and not those of my employer.

I’m an Executive Board Member of the Champaign County Young Democrats. We organize events to get young people involved in politics, encourage people to run for office, give them practical advice and endorse candidates.

SP: How old do you need to be for Young Democrats?

Sanchez: Anyone who’s under 40 can volunteer and be involved.

SP: You seem like a very busy person and you’re always doing something.  If you have any free time, what do you like to do?

Sanchez: I like doing paper crafts, playing with my cat Mika, cuddling, and I’m in CLAW - Champaign Ladies Amateur Wrestling.

SP: Why did you join CLAW?

Sanchez: I joined CLAW on the suggestion of a friend who was in the group. She told me I would be a good fit and suggested that I put in an application. I joined because it was an awesome space for women to express themselves and do things that we don't normally see women do like being goofy, loud, and physically strong. The same friend that suggested I join, also came up with my character, Punky Bruiser, which is a play on the 80s TV sitcom character Punky Brewster, who is a precocious orphan taken in by a straight laced grandfatherly figure.

SP: That is funny! Do you think that any part of your character reflects you in real life?

Sanchez: My character reflects me a little bit-- she's very optimistic and energetic.

SP: How would you define yourself?

Sanchez: Loud.

SP: What are your greatest stresses in life?  Where do you get the most joy in life?

Sanchez: I always want more hours in the day, it stresses me out to feel rushed. I get the most joy from playing with my cat and petting any and every dog. Oh and traveling with my partner, Eristeo. We could be on the Amazing Race.  

SP: Was there a defining moment that made you choose the career path you did?

Sanchez: There was no defining moment, just a lot of luck. I realized that I had an opportunity to do something that I was passionate about and I jumped at that chance

SP: What's the next skill you want to learn?   

Sanchez: Lobbying. When advocating for legislative change, either in health care or in another area, efforts are sometimes countered by huge lobbying firms and I hope to develop skills to better advocate.

SP: And finally, do you have a nickname?

Sanchez:  Adani is already a pretty short name, but my family sometimes calls me Donny. I'm still hoping that I can get "Mad Dog" to stick.

I think that I’ve learned from Sanchez that building inclusive community includes listening to people, trying to help them find solutions, and meeting their needs. Sanchez seems to have a large heart for people. She cares about the community, is friendly and outgoing and doesn't seem to know a stranger. And she’s hilarious!  All of this reminds me of myself. I think Mad Dog Adani and I will be friends forever.

For more information about Champaign County Healthcare Consumers, Champaign County Young Democrats, and CLAW: Champaign Ladies Amateur Wrestling, visit their websites:  

Champaign County Healthcare Consumers

Champaign County Young Democrats