JDRF Announces Celebrity Advocates to Testify at 2013 Children’s Congress

— 2013 NBA Champion Ray Allen and actress Jean Smart to appear before Senate —

Washington, D.C., July 02, 2013 – JDRF announced today that the Senate Special Committee on Aging has confirmed the list of testifiers to appear at the hearing, “Diabetes Research: Reducing the Burden of Diabetes at All Ages and Stages,” on Wednesday, July 10. The list will include NBA All-Star basketball player Ray Allen and his son Walker, and actress Jean Smart, as well as JDRF’s own president and CEO Jeffrey Brewer and another child delegate from the 2013 Children’s Congress, 14-year-old Quinn Ferguson.

Children’s Congress will bring more than 150 child delegates from around the country and a select group of celebrity advocates to Washington, D.C., on July 8–10 to urge their representatives in Congress to continue their support of type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

Federal funding is a vital part of diabetes research progress. In January, in one of the last acts of the prior session, Congress passed a one-year renewal of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), which accounts for one third of all federal research for T1D. The delegates and celebrity advocates at Children’s Congress will urge lawmakers to pass a three- year extension of the SDP program this calendar year in order to capitalize on the federal investment to date and realize additional research breakthroughs that are improving the lives of those with diabetes and yielding cost savings.

After leading the Miami HEAT to victory in the 2013 NBA Finals, 10-time NBA All-Star Ray Allen will now turn his attention to leading JDRF’s celebrity advocates on Capitol Hill. During their testimonies, he and Walker, diagnosed with T1D at 17 months, will seek to remind Congress that their actions can help to improve Walker’s life and the lives of the millions of people living with T1D.

Joining the Allens will be Jean Smart, Emmy Award-winning television, film, and stage actress, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 13. Known for her many TV roles on programs such as Designing Women and 24 and films such as Hope Springs and Garden State, she is pleased to be an advocate for projects that create greater awareness of T1D.

“We feel incredibly fortunate to once again have the support of a group of talented and dedicated celebrity advocates at Children’s Congress,” said Jeffrey Brewer, JDRF’s president and CEO, who will also present testimony at the hearing. “I am honored to have been selected to stand alongside these supporters and remind Congress of the daily struggle that impacts my son and the nearly three million other Americans living with type 1 diabetes. The SDP continues to yield a strong return on investment, leading directly to new insights and therapies that have improved the lives of people with diabetes and accelerated research.”

In addition to those celebrities selected to testify, JDRF will be welcoming nine other celebrity advocates who will serve as role models to the delegates. The celebrities will take part in various activities, including a performance of the traditional Children’s Congress anthem, “Promise to Remember Me,” and the town hall panel discussion that allows the delegates to ask questions of their celebrity role models to learn how they overcame T1D in their personal and professional lives. The celebrity advocates include:

  • Singer/songwriter and American Idol Season 9 runner-up Crystal Bowersox
  • Celebrity chef and semifinalist on Bravo’s Top Chef Sam Talbot
  • Actress Mary Mouser (Body of Proof, Frenemies)
  • Open-wheel race car driver with Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Charlie Kimball
  • Major League Baseball sportscaster and radio host Brian Kenny
  • Olympic Hall of Fame swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.
  • Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, DrPH, MPH, MA
  • Journalist, formerly of NBC and ABC news, Leslie Adkins
  • JDRF vice president, Treatment Therapies, Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D.

About T1D

In T1D, a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. People with T1D need to test their blood sugar and give themselves insulin (with injections or an insulin pump) multiple times every day, and carefully balance insulin doses with eating and daily activities throughout the day and night. However, insulin is not a cure for diabetes, and even with that intensive care, a significant portion of the day is still spent with either high or low blood sugar, placing people with T1D at risk for devastating complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputation.

About Children’s Congress

The JDRF Children’s Congress program was inspired by eight-year-old Tommy Solo from Massachusetts in 1999. He overheard adult JDRF volunteers talking about going to Washington, D.C., to talk to Congress, and thought it would be great if children could go, too, because their voices also needed to be heard. Children’s Congress inspires lawmakers to remember the children and adults who live with T1D when making decisions about medical research and voting on other important federal issues relating to diabetes. The young delegates’ stories, told in their own words, are often more powerful than almost any other type of legislator education.

The idea quickly became a well-developed event, which was first held in 1999. Since then, seven successful Children’s Congresses have occurred, growing in sophistication, every other year (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011).

Today, Children’s Congress brings 150 children with T1D, and one parent or guardian each, to Washington, D.C. Children’s Congress participants represent all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and several countries around the world. They come together as advocates to meet on Capitol Hill with Members of Congress and other key federal policymakers to help educate them about the critical need for federal funding of T1D research.

About JDRF
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.

As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. In 2012, Forbes magazine named JDRF one of its five All-Star charities, citing the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness.

For more information, please visit jdrf.org.


JDRF Media Contact:      
Michael Cook
(212) 479-7510