JDRF Advocates only start rolling when they leave our nation’s capital
This March, JDRF Advocates descended on Washington, D.C., to hold meetings with elected Representatives, Senators, and their staff. The group arrived fired up to share their personal stories of life with type 1 diabetes (T1D), and by speaking collectively with One Voice, to lift the burden of living with T1D. How do they do it? Grassroots organizing and old-fashioned pounding the pavement.
Pam Edmonds, JDRF International Board of Directors member, and Chair of the Advocacy Committee, captured it best when she told the crowd,
It’s exhilarating to see all of our JDRF Advocates on the Hill. When you realize what a force we are collectively, it makes those long walks between government buildings worth every step.”
A promise to a daughter ignites a commitment to a community
Pam’s 16-year-old daughter Holland was diagnosed at age 2. “She was braver than we were and never complained,” Pam says. Yet one day on the ride home after ballet class, Holland asked her mom, “Will I have diabetes when I am big?” At a loss for words, Pam replied, “I hope not, and I will do everything I can to see that you don’t.” This year, nearly 190 volunteer advocacy leaders shared stories just like Pam’s—stories that were both reassuringly similar and achingly unique.
A passion for persuasion
After a moving introductory session in which each JDRF Advocate shared his or her personal story with the larger group, Justin Papermaster, a JDRF Advocate from Austin, said, “I’m tired of meeting so many awesome friends through T1D.” And his fellow advocates more than agreed with this bittersweet sentiment. That’s why they do more than swap stories and offer support. They educate themselves about recent research advances and life-changing therapies, currently available and accessible to people with T1D – or that need to be made so, through changes in policy. Their goal is to empower national lawmakers to make the most informed decisions about these issues when they make a case to their fellow Members of Congress, the White House, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their support.
The proof is in the progress
Each year that JDRF holds Government Day, we celebrate the tangible advances our work has made possible. Most notable may be our early support of the Special Diabetes Program (or SDP, begun in 1998) and our work with the FDA to ensure reasonable regulatory pathways and final guidelines for artificial pancreas (AP) systems technology. JDRF Advocates, and everyone in the T1D community, can rejoice that the first hybrid closed-loop AP systems will be available next year.
So, 500-plus meetings. Was it lightning in a bottle? Impossible to recreate again? We certainly don’t think so. JDRF Advocates never stop telling their stories and raising their voices just because they live outside the Beltway. They leave Government Day more determined than ever before to keep sharing their stories with their local communities, recruiting new advocates and meeting with their Members back in their home states and Districts. Find out how you can add your story to our One Voice at jdrf.org/advocacy.