Young New Jersey advocates John Gallagher, Arianna Gehan, Keyonna Murray, and Danny Zinn traveled to the United States Capitol from July 8-10 to testify on the importance of securing continued and stable funding for the Special Diabetes Program. The Congressional hearing was part of the three-day JDRF Children’s Congress 2019, where more than 160 youth delegates from across the country, as well as celebrity role models, were brought together in Washington, D.C. to advocate for ongoing research funding and coverage, treatment affordability and choice of therapies to help those with type 1 diabetes (T1D) stay healthy until there is a cure.
John Gallagher was seven years old when he was diagnosed with T1D. Now at age 9, he is a passionate advocate for T1D. His walk team is one of the top at JDRF One Walk, Jersey City and he started “Johnny’s Dogs for a Cause,” a hot dog stand he runs during the 4th of July to raise awareness and money for T1D research. Leading up to Children’s Congress, John was interviewed at NBC Studios where he shared his T1D story and spoke on the importance of using your voice to make a difference.
Q: What was your favorite part about Children’s Congress?
A: My favorite part of Children’s Congress was the Town Hall event at the hotel where all of the Celebrities with T1D talked about how they haven’t let the disease stop them in everything they’ve been able to accomplish!
Keyonna Murray is passionate when it comes to politics and social justice. Her passion and dedication to finding a cure for T1D shine through in her work as a JDRF intern, OneWalk speaker, youth ambassador, and a Children’s Congress delegate. In college, she strives to work hard in pursuit of her dream to become a public relations specialist so that she can help more people just like her. Recently, she and her Children’s Congress colleague, Arianna, were featured in an article where they shared the impact Children’s Congress has left on them, She knows that carrying the experience and knowledge she’s gained at Children’s Congress will be instrumental in her future.
Q: What would you recommend to others who will apply to the program in the future?
A: “I would encourage future applicants to be as open and honest about their diabetes journey as possible, throughout the entire process. Vulnerability impacts people across all different groups; it paints a picture of what life with such a condition is truly like. This image — this vivid taste of diabetes — is what will truly push lawmakers to advocate for our health.”
Danny Zinn was just six and a half years old when he was diagnosed with T1D. Now as a 17-year old, he has applied the skills he’s cultivated as junior class vice-president and co-president of the philosophy club to convey the importance of funding T1D research to the United States Congress. Danny served as a walk ambassador in 2017 and introduced New Jersey’s former Health Commissioner, Shereef Elnahal, at this year’s One Dream Gala. His dedication to T1D advocacy make him a valued delegate and peer during the 2019 Children’s Congress.
Arianna Gehan was diagnosed with T1D at 11 years old, but that never stopped her. She has broken down barriers. After being told she could not be an astronaut, she was accepted into space camp. Now as a 17-year-old, she is returning from the experiences of Children’s Congress. As a Girl Scouts Silver Award recipient, Governor’s STEM Scholar, honors student, athlete, and socially involved high school student, Arianna was able to share her experience living with T1D with members of Congress.
Q: Were you able to connect with the other Ambassadors from NJ and other states?
A: “I was able to meet Ambassadors from all over the country. It was a great experience to meet with so many other children and teenagers who know what I’m going through, and to share tips on how we manage our blood sugar during school and sports.”
Delegates from Children’s Congress leveraged their stories and testimonies to secure $150 million annually in funding for T1D research through the Special Diabetes Program and have brought us one step closer to making insulin more affordable. Senators Shaheen, Collins, Carper, and Cramer introduced a bill to the senate floor after meeting with Children’s Congress delegates that will create a more affordable pricing model for insulin, the Insulin Price Reduction Act. Our Children’s Congress delegates have returned more inspired and empowered to advocate for continued funding of life-changing research and to eventually find a cure for T1D. Join them and become a JDRF Advocate today.