As JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress approaches, it’s the perfect time to revisit how this groundbreaking type 1 diabetes (T1D) advocacy event came to be—and why it’s still so important.
The idea for JDRF Children’s Congress all started with a curious 9-year old boy from Massachusetts named Tommy Solo. He asked his mother, “Why can’t kids go to Washington to tell their representatives about what it is like to have T1D, and let them know that we want scientists to find a cure?” With the help of Tommy’s mother and other JDRF volunteers, the first-ever JDRF Children’s Congress became a reality in 1999. There, Tommy and other children from across the country convened in Washington, D.C., to raise awareness and support for those impacted by T1D.
Mary Tyler Moore, the late television icon and a champion for the T1D community, served as the first chair of Children’s Congress. As the international chairman of JDRF since 1984, Mary testified in front of Congress and led initiatives that helped raise billions of dollars for T1D research. Mary was never afraid to share her personal story—and both she and her husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine, were dedicated to advocating for a world without T1D. Mary will be sorely missed at this year’s gathering—but her tremendous legacy to JDRF and Children’s Congress will always live on.
Since that first Children’s Congress, more than 1,000 kids with T1D—ages 4 to 17—have sat down with top decision-makers in Washington. Not only have these Delegates given a voice to this disease, they also have helped to secure critical Federal funding for T1D research. One such source of funding is the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), which provides $150 million annually for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The SDP is set to expire at the end of September of 2017. Like those who have gone before them, this year’s Children’s Congress Delegates will share their stories and work hard to push for the renewal of the SDP so that breakthroughs to improve the lives of everyone with T1D can continue—until there is a cure.
Learn more about SDP renewal and how you can show your support.