What Makes JDRF Advocates Stand Out on the Hill?

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They keep coming back

They put their day-to-day lives on hold to attend JDRF Government Day because they see the bigger picture—they want to change all lives affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D). Melinda Renfroe, a grassroots JDRF Advocate from Alabama, missed celebrating her daughter’s 23rd birthday on the day because she is here in Washington, D.C., speaking out for Federal support of T1D research progress for her daughter and everyone living with T1D. Melinda told her daughter, Alexandra, “My being at Government Day on your birthday will one day give you the best birthday present ever. A cure.” As a JDRF 2009 Children’s Congress Delegate herself, Alexandra understood, saying “Mom, you’re my hero.”

They’re persistent

Take the Indiana delegation. Cindy Cook, Sharon Gregor, Gartha Ingram and Richard Shevitz will attend a total of 11 meetings in two days. That means they’re meeting with all of the Members of Congress or their staff from their home state. Their secret? “We follow up. We make it easy for them to schedule meetings. And we say thank you,” says Cindy Cook. The grandmother of a high school freshman with T1D, Cindy has been involved with JDRF since her grandson was diagnosed as an infant. For the last seven years, she has witnessed the power of perseverance each time she returns to the Hill and speaks to Members and their staff who remember JDRF and our mission. Representative Susan Brooks (IN-5) recently accepted the position of House Diabetes Caucus Vice Chair, and her office made a special point of reaching out to Gartha to tell him they were inspired in part by him and his son’s story.

They’re passionate

Nobody can deny the energy in the room when our army of volunteers gets together, shares their stories and their successes and heads out the door more determined than ever. Patrick Tohill, JDRF Canada Director of Government Relations, says, “I’m inspired to see how many people want to engage and serve as advocates. I can’t wait to go back home and harness that same energy for T1D research funding and support in my country.”

They take it back home

For JDRF Advocates, the hard work doesn’t end when they leave D.C. Throughout the year they will keep in touch with their Representatives and Senators, tell their stories at JDRF and other community events in their home Districts, and crucially, prepare others to become advocates. “It’s wonderful to go back and tell others how many people in Washington do care and are fighting in our corner,” says Scott Minor, a JDRF New York Advocate. To reach a world without T1D, we must first cover the U.S. map, meet with every lawmaker, and ask each one to promise to remember those who live with T1D when they vote on legislation that will improve lives and lead to a cure. JDRF Advocates are the One Voice that will eventually help us create a world without T1D.

They fight to the finish

“This will end.” Bill Parsons, Executive Director, JDRF Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter, told a fired-up crowd of Advocates before they left for two days of Hill meetings. “If it seems like you’ve been saying the same thing year after year, know that we have made tangible progress, like the SDP renewal, and you have been part of it.”

Are you ready to be part of it? Become a JDRF Advocate by texting “ACT” to 53731 (or JDRF1) or sign up online.

JDRF Government Day Advocates
Advocates from across the country gather at JDRF Government Day to speak with One Voice.

And keep following #JDRFGovDay to see what makes JDRF Advocates the best of the best.

A special thanks to Sanofi — JDRF 2016 Government Day Presenting Sponsor.

By Cynthia Tully