JDRF Children’s Congress Experience Day 2 – Oliver Shane 7/24/23

Hello, welcome back to the Poetic Diabetic! In the previous blog, I gave a brief overview of some of the highlights of the 2023 JDRF Children’s Congress, focusing primarily on the events of the first day. Today, I’ll get to discuss the true highlight of the event (at least for me), the chance to meet and learn from the ten T1D role models!

Following our excursion to the indoor courtyard for the group photo, the delegates were brought back into that same breakfast room, now rearranged to fit a panel-like seating, with ten chairs for each of the role models on the stage, and a couple hundred chairs in the audience for the delegates. After a short introduction, the first role model to take the stage, and the host of the panel, was Ms. Madison Carter.

Ms. Carter’s background was as an esteemed reporter with a history of work in Charlotte, Buffalo, and Atlanta, and she focuses her internationally acclaimed career on exposing corruption and addressing civil unrest. Firsthand, I can comment that she had an extraordinary energy, and carried the movement of the panel extremely well.

Following Ms. Carter was Mr. Orlando Brown Jr, an offensive lineman in the NFL. He played with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Ravens, earning multiple Pro Bowl selections. Now, I confess, I don’t actually understand all that much about sports, so the meaning of those words were a bit lost on me. Despite that, his dedication to be here and in support of all these delegates, in memory of his late father and younger brother, was incredibly admirable.

From one sports champion to another, America Ninja Warrior Katie Bone was introduced next, to a thunderous applause. At only 17 years old, Katie is the youngest of the role models, even being younger than some of the delegates themselves. Her age did not deter her from her success, though, as she just recently became the only female in ANW’s entire run to complete a stage 2 finals course, proudly displaying both her pump and CGM on national television.

Ms. Susan Fong, rendering supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios was brought up soon after. With more than twenty-five years of experience in her field and over forty years of experience with T1D, Ms. Fong has made a legacy for herself with her work on modern classics such as “Wall-E”, “Coco”, and, most recently, “Turning Red”.

Among the remaining role models were Saxophonist Antoine Gibson, Grammy Award Winning Producer Jimmy Jam, Actor Derek Theler, International Supermodel Stephanie “Bambi” Northwood-Blyth, and JDRF’s very own CEO, Aaron Kowalski.

During the panel, delegates were implored to ask a variety of questions to the role models, while the role models shared their stories and experience. One particularly fascinating story was from Ms. Fong, as she described the process of pitching diabetes representation in Turning Red to the Pixar creative team. The film’s director, Domee Shi, vehemently agreed to have the representation, so long as it remained accurate to the period the movie was set in.

When the panel was concluded, all the delegates were brought into yet another room for the mixer, which included games, a saxophone performance from Mr. Gibson, photo-ops with the role models, and snacks galore! After playing a round of giant uno and an even larger round of Jenga, I got in line to meet with Ms. Carter to ask her one short question, “How do you learn to present so well?”. Her reply was to simply, “imagine you’re speaking to one person, even if you’re speaking to hundreds or thousands, and everything will feel much more natural”. Though it’s a really simple piece of advice, and one that doesn’t really relate to diabetes, it’s what I remembered on the flight back.

However, that isn’t to say that Children’s Congress was already over. Far from it, in fact! After the mixer, we went back to our rooms to prepare for Capitol Hill the next morning! However, since this blog is already getting quite long, I’ll be ending this part here. Make sure to check back soon for the thrilling finale to my JDRF 2023 Children’s Congress Journey!