Young Diabetes Advocates Take Capitol Hill by Storm

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Early the morning of July 10, the delegates of JDRF 2013 Children’s Congress filled the halls of Congress and talked a blue streak. That day, hundreds of Members of Congress learned about type 1 diabetes (T1D) from the experts themselves—the kids and teenagers who live with and manage the disease every day. For some, it was a familiar conversation; JDRF has been raising awareness about T1D through this special advocacy event since 1999. For others, including many newly elected Members of Congress, it was an education on issues that affect a growing number of Americans every day.

Senator Joe Donnelly, of Indiana, opened his office for a JDRF coffee hour. No sooner were cups in hand than the conversation kicked into high gear. Delegates Claire Dunigan (17), Rebecca Moody (8), and Gwen Woehler (15) spoke with the senator about T1D research. With a family connection to T1D himself, Senator Donnelly was well versed in the latest findings in artificial pancreas systems trials. Describing a meeting with a previous Children’s Congress delegate—a Chicago Cubs fan—the senator said, “I told him, ‘I can’t help you find a cure for that, but I will help you find a cure for type 1 diabetes.’”

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Fallon Blackbull (left) talks about T1D with Senator Martin Heinrich.

Delegate Fallon Blackbull (13), and her mother, Tiffany, had a one-on-one conversation with Senator Martin Heinrich, of New Mexico. Himself an outdoorsman, the senator bonded with Fallon over their mutual love of archery. Fallon described her diagnosis with T1D, at age 10. “The doctor said I was just overathletic,” she related. The senator was eager for more information, asking Fallon about her T1D management supplies and to explain diabetic ketoacidosis.

Fallon also talked about her experience as a participant in an artificial pancreas clinical trial, and explained how the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) is essential to funding that and other important T1D research. Fallon asked that the senator sign a letter that recognizes the important advances in T1D research achieved thanks to the SDP. Last year, a similar letter was signed by 272 representatives and 72 senators and helped to secure a one-year renewal of the SDP. Senator Heinrich informed Fallon that he planned to support renewal of the SDP this year and has since added his name to the letter.

In another wing, JDRF’s two delegates from Georgia, Mary Grace Zaldo (14) and Taylor Miller (11), met with Senator Johnny Isakson’s office. The girls shared their T1D diagnosis stories. “Type 1 diabetes does not discriminate by age, race, paycheck, or gender,” Mary Grace explained. Chance Phiniezy, the legislative aide for Senator Isakson, shared his own story—of a friend with whom he played football in school, who had a rigorous T1D management routine. Taylor and Mary Grace ended their talk with information about the SDP. As Mr. Phiniezy said, “With the CDC in our backyard, we certainly understand that research is an essential step in finding a cure.” The delegates had an opportunity to visit and have their photo taken with the senator afterward.

By all accounts, the delegates’ day on Capitol Hill was a huge success, and many of the kids look forward to their next meetings, back home with their Members of Congress.

You too can meet your Members of Congress and tell your story. The JDRF 2013 Promise to Remember Me Campaign is right around the corner. Sign up today and be a part of this history-making conversation.

Complete Coverage: JDRF 2013 Children’s Congress

Children’s Congress Delegate Blog

We invited five delegates to write a very special series—the very first Children’s Congress Delegate Blog! In the weeks leading up to their trip to Washington, D.C., these delegates gave us their thoughts on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happy glucose control. But most importantly, they let us know just what it means to them to be delegates of Children’s Congress 2013. Read on.

Jonathan Platt — 9 years old, California
Children’s Congress 2013 Chair Kid

Bring On Children’s Congress!

Delegate Do’s and Don’ts: How to Make the Most of Children’s Congress

Catrina Curtis — 15 years old, Mississippi

My Sweet Sixteen on Capitol Hill

My Friend, My Inspiration

Amelia Rehrman  11 years old, Pennsylvania

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Capitol Hill Essentials

Reed Gialketsis — 17 years old, Nevada

A Numbers Game, or: We Are All Number One

Word to the Wise: A T1D Slang Dictionary

Cindy Chen — 17 years old, California

Life Under the Microscope: My Summer as a Research Intern

Letters From the Cusp of Childhood/Adulthood

The Delegates Are Coming!


An Opening Refrain Filled With Promise

Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Monday


The Role of a Lifetime

Partners Working Toward a Cure

Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Tuesday


Many Happy Returns

Children’s Congress Rocks Capitol Hill

Young Diabetes Advocates Take Capitol Hill by Storm

Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Wednesday

By Talley Henning Brown