The JDRF Children’s Congress will send 160 children between the ages of 4-to-17 from across the country to Washington D.C. on July 8th. During their time in D.C. these Youth Delegates will lobby Members of Congress to continue funding the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) which supports research that will reduce the burden of type 1 diabetes (T1D) and ultimately find a cure.
This year, Owen Carletti (7), Jackie Lynch (15), and Abigael Parish (17) are headed to Washington D.C. to share their stories with their elected representatives in Congress.
Here are five things you should know about the Youth Delegates from the Illinois Chapter.
1. All of our Youth Delegates are VERY involved in extracurricular activities
Each of our Youth Delegates are perfect examples of JDRF CEO Dr. Aaron Kowalski’s favorite hashtag – #DiabetesNoLimits! All three like to play sports and stay busy.
Owen is big into baseball, football, and basketball.
Abigael plays varsity tennis, plays both flute and piccolo in the top wind ensemble at her school, and she is very involved in science (more on that later).
Jackie plays three different sports, is a freshman class officer, singer, member of two clubs, and is an author who writes fiction and about her life with T1D. Speaking of which…
2. Jackie Literally Wrote the Book on T1D
Jackie’s passion for writing began around the time she was in the third grade when she began to write short stories, but the more she wrote, her projects began to get too long to be considered short stories. That is when her two major passions – sports and writing – came together. She wrote and self-published Just Call Me Jackie: A Teenager’s List of Lessons Learned (So Far) from Having Type 1 Diabetes.
“I wanted to share the journey that I have been through with other people and help those who are newly diagnosed see that they are not alone with this disease,” said Jackie. “I hope this book shows others that having Type One Diabetes does not stop you from doing other things such as sports and other activities.”
The book is currently available for Kindle [link] and proceeds benefit JDRF!
3. Abigael has Won Awards for Her T1D Research
Abigael, a member of the advanced science research program at her school, spent two years studying potential viral and genetic triggers for T1D. Her work won her a gold medal at the state science fair in spring 2018.
“Being diagnosed with T1D when I was seven taught me how scary it is for a kid to be in the hospital, so I want to help kids who are in that position, both through my volunteer work and my future career,” Abigael said. “I want to be a pediatric geneticist so I can work with kids who have genetic conditions and help them reach their full potential.”
4. Owen already has experience in front of Congress
Even though he is the youngest of the Illinois Delegates, Owen is no stranger to sharing his story with Congressional Representatives. Two years ago, Owen met with Rep. Brad Schneider to talk about the daily impact T1D has had on him and his family. He told the congressman about the technology used to manage the disease as well as the successes and difficulties of life with T1D.
“I was young,” Owen said, “but it was a good chance for me to use my voice and tell him about what it is like to live with T1D every day.”
5. All Three are Adamant about giving back to the T1D Community
Giving back and building up the T1D community is a big deal for each of the delegates.
Not only has Abigael served as a JDRF Illinois Youth Ambassador, but she is a very active member on the JDRF TypeOneNation forum. What began as simply answering questions to help others with T1D evolved into a group chat with a couple other T1D teens and has blossomed into something more.
“What started as a group of six teens has now grown to more than 50, ranging in age from 12 to 20 years old and spanning several countries,” she said.
They call themselves the “Pin Cushions” and help each other with everything from school, to family, and their own experiences living with T1D.
“The camaraderie we share is so valuable to every one of us,” said Abigael. “I’m so proud and so lucky that my idea brought all of us together and I am eager to connect with more T1D teens in the future.”
The same goes for Jackie. Not only is her family involved with chapter outreach and events like TypeOneNation and the One Walk, but she also serves as a member of the Kovler Diabetes Center Teen Advocacy Panel for Kovler For Kids events where she passes out business cards that read “Type 1 Diabetes Advocate and Author” along with her contact information. She doesn’t try to hide her T1D – she welcomes questions so she can spread the word about daily life with the disease.
“I view my daily life as living T1D out loud,” Jackie said, “a form of daily T1D awareness and advocacy for the community. By allowing the community to see me live with T1D, I am showing them that I can do anything, the difficulties and frustrations I experience, and the need for research and funding to find a cure.”
The Carletti family, who have been involved with the JDRF Ride, One Walk, and chapter advocacy efforts, see the 2019 Children’s Congress is another chance to give back. Again, even though he is the youngest delegate from Illinois, Owen knows why he is headed to Washington D.C.
“I am looking forward to meeting members of Congress with other kids who have T1D and making sure our voices are heard,” he said. “I think JDRF’s Children’s Congress is important because you talk to members of Congress and let them know what life with T1D is like so they can keep funding research. I also hope they will make insulin and new technology more affordable.”
Owen, Abigael, and Jackie will be on Capitol Hill July 8-10 to participate in a number of activities on the Hill, including a Congressional Committee hearing to share personal testimonies that highlight the challenges of living with T1D and the vital need to support T1D research that could reduce the burden of this disease and ultimately find a cure.