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Joshua's pledge will add to plea

(ran PW edition of PT))

Joshua Jones, 8, will lead the Florida House of Representatives in the Pledge of Allegiance on Tuesday. His sister Ashley, 7, will share the platform.

Because he was born with cerebral palsy, Joshua will use his computerized "light talker" to communicate, and his mother hopes he can help get a different message across during meetings the day before.

"We're going up Monday with another family to tell our legislators our concerns with the Florida Health Care plan being proposed," said Joshua's mother, Kim Jones.

"We're told the plan will not provide therapy unless the patient is victim of a stroke or an accident. We're worried about kids like Joshua who were born with a problem. We don't want them left behind."

Joshua's venture into the spotlight is a result of a long-time family friendship with Rep. Victor Crist, R-Temple Terrace, said his mother.

"He has known Joshua for some time and has been impressed with him. He's tried to help us in many ways," Ms. Jones said.

"When he asked Joshua if he'd like to visit Tallahassee, Joshua was thrilled. His sister thinks it'll be cool to be on the stage, too."

Before this adventure, the most recognition Joshua had came last year when he represented Inverness Primary School in the select Dreamers and Doers group named for outstanding accomplishments in the face of adversity.

While the Pledge of Allegiance may be the most exciting part of the family's trip to the state capital, the chance to reach legislators and seek protection for youngsters like Joshua is much more urgent as the state health care package is debated.

"I'm just not sure if they (the legislators) realize what would happen to children like Joshua if they aren't given coverage," Ms. Jones said. "That's why this trip has become so important."