JDRF Bay Area Hope Gala Manager, Eliza Kinsolving, Reflects on Her Time as a Children’s Congress Delegate

JDRF Children’s Congress, our highest profile advocacy event, is held every two years in the nation’s capital. Next year’s event will take place from July 8 – 10, 2019. The event includes more than 160 children, ages 4 to 17, from across the nation and around the world who travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with Members of Congress and participate in activities to educate the nation’s top lawmakers and staff about type 1 diabetes (T1D). The delegates in JDRF’s Children’s Congress enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help our governmental representatives understand what life with T1D is like and why research to fund life-changing therapies until a cure can be found is so critical. The children return with invaluable experiences and memories that shape them for years to come.

One of JDRF Bay Area’s own – Eliza Kinsolving who was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 3 –  has her own memories as a JDRF Children’s Congress delegate. She was chosen to represent her home state of Connecticut in 2001 when she was 13. The experience had a lasting effect as she grew up, and led her onto a nonprofit career path. After graduating from The George Washington University, Eliza worked for the Harlem Children’s Zone and the National Kidney Foundation, and then joined our JDRF Bay Area staff as the Hope Gala Manager in 2015. We sat down with her to ask her about the time she spent on Capitol Hill 17 years ago:

Eliza at the 2018 JDRF Hope Gala

What are your favorite memories from the 2001 JDRF Children’s Congress?

Eliza: There are so many! I think talking directly to my Senators from my home state about T1D was such an important moment for me as a member of the JDRF community. To feel like major government decision makers were hearing directly from their constituents about the importance of T1D research and the Special Diabetes Program is what democracy is all about! When I realized that my own voice and my own story could affect change, it transformed how I thought about living with T1D. 

As a teenage girl, I was also so excited to meet Nicole Johnson who had been crowned Miss America two years before. The night she was crowned, my family had no idea Miss America was even happening, but my friend and I were channel surfing on TV and I suddenly heard someone talking about T1D. Suddenly, my whole household was screaming at the TV like it was a sporting event and rooting for Nicole! We were totally thrilled when she won so when I met her at Children’s Congress, I was pretty star struck! Her long-term dedication to JDRF’s mission and her work on the behavioral aspects of T1D continue to inspire me.

What has stayed with you throughout the years into adulthood?

Eliza: Empowerment and the importance of telling my story. Everyone’s journey with T1D is so different, but by sharing your story with the broader community, you can educate people and collectively advocate for change. Our stories are powerful and together, they can really change the odds for the millions affected by T1D. JDRF empowered me to make a difference, and that has stayed with me!

I mentioned in my Children’s Congress letter that as a little kid, my T1D treatment options were insulin syringes and non-stop finger pricks. Thanks to JDRF research efforts and our amazing volunteers, I now have an insulin pump and a CGM which have both changed my life. I’m living proof that we are changing the odds. – Eliza Kinsolving, 2001 JDRF Children’s Congress Delegate and JDRF Hope Gala Manager

Why should kids apply to the 2019 Children’s Congress? 

Eliza: Writing a letter to a Member of Congress is one of the most important and powerful things any kid can do! I still have a copy of my handwritten letter because it made me invested for life in JDRF’s mission. Plus, it is so much fun to be with other kids living with T1D from across the country and around the world. 

Eliza received local media attention for her participation in the 2001 JDRF Children’s Congress (See newspaper article below). People were particularly impressed with her maturity and the eloquent letter she wrote to her local congressman. In it she stated, “We need you, Members of Congress, to help our battle be won. By allocating more funds for diabetes research, you will be helping make a world of difference. As you think about whether or not to support these funds, remember me. Remember the children who stand here today, hoping that you’ll help us make a difference.” Read Eliza’s full letter below.

Please take time to learn more about JDRF 2019 Children’s Congress and APPLY TODAY to represent our Chapter in Washington, D.C., or share this information with a child living with T1D whose story would make a lasting impact on Capitol Hill and beyond. Visit cc.jdrf.org.