Interning in the JDRF Advocacy Office – Savanna’s Story

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Hello! My name is Savanna Vance and I am from Pekin, IL, a town about 2.5 hours north of Chicago, IL. I recently graduated Cum Laude from Eureka College in Eureka, IL with a B.S. in Sociology and Psychology with the Outstanding Graduate Award in Sociology and Psychology. I am so excited to grow and learn with JDRF in their advocacy department as I intern with this amazing organization and outstanding team.

Savanna (left) pictured with fellow camp counselors, who are some of her closest friends and who also have T1D!

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on August 8, 2003 at the age of eight. I was just two weeks shy of starting third grade. In 2006, I first attended a camp for children with diabetes in Central Illinois. It was here that I first realized I was not alone in the fight against T1D. After 6 years as a camper, I returned to camp as a counselor for girls ages 13-16. Because of my amazing experience at camp, I knew I wanted to use my voice in some way.

I started volunteering with JDRF in 2012 or 2013 when I first created, ‘Team Vannah’, and led my team of family and friends at the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, now known as JDRF One Walk with the Central Illinois Chapter. At the time, I did not realize how big of an impact the JDRF One Walk would have on my life – to see all of these families, friends, co-workers, and school groups come together for one reason was absolutely amazing and inspiring.

Savanna with her family and friends at the JDRF One Walk in Central Illinois!

I found my passion for advocating for the rights of people with T1D, but also making the  general public aware of what T1D actually is, the symptoms of T1D, and the sad fact that so many are misdiagnosed because T1D frequently presents itself as the flu or strep throat. This followed the misdiagnosis of 5 year old Kycie Terry (Kisses for Kycie), who was  diagnosed with strep throat, but actually had T1D. Her misdiagnosis led to a seizure and ultimately severe brain damage. For years, I never realized how many people are misdiagnosed when they actually have T1D. Kycie Terry’s case further fueled my desire to continue advocating on behalf of everyone, myself included, with T1D.

My time soon became devoted to classes and working part-time, so for the last couple of years, I was not able to fundraise and walk with JDRF One Walk, but I always supported one team or another through donations and cheering them on from afar. However, I knew I still wanted to use my voice against T1D. My time at Eureka College was slowly coming to an end andI still had yet to find where I was meant to be. One of my best friends from college told me she was interested in heading to Washington, D.C. for an internship and asked if I would want to travel with her. One thing led to another, and here I am at JDRF Advocacy!

I am so beyond excited to be interning with the JDRF Advocacy team here in Washington, D.C. So much is happening right now in the diabetes community- new treatments and technology advancements, the Special Diabetes Program that funds groundbreaking research is up for renewal, thousands are urging insurance companies to provide affordable coverage for those living with T1D (the #Coverage2Control campaign), and so much more! I am excited to see what this fall has in store for me while interning with JDRF Advocacy!