Type 1 Diabetes Advocacy Should Include Children
It's hard to believe that a year has passed since the JDRF Children's Congress took place, but since time seems to fly when you're raising kids, I suppose it should be no shock.
When I received a reminder from the JDRF that the application process has started for the 2011 Congress, I realized that the next Children's Congress is only one short year away, and that I need to get moving on one of my goals for 2010: asking my 14 year-old Type 1 son to apply to be a delegate. I feel that advocacy has been - and will continue to be - a huge reason for diabetes research and awareness coming as far as it has in the last few decades. I hope that my son will think so too and apply.
The Children's Congress, which will be June 17 to 20, 2011 in Washington, DC, and takes place every other year, sends 150 delegates to meet with top representatives in the federal government. These delegates sit down and relay their stories with the goal of convincing the listening lawmakers why continued funding and support is paramount for Type 1 Diabetes. The event started in 1999, and has grown since Day One in participation and visibility.
The efforts of the Children's Congress should be considered work, particularly when you look at the overall fundraising success of the JDRF. According to JDRF Founder Lee Ducat,= in 1970, only $1 million was allocated to diabetes research, including money from the NIH. Since then, the fundraising success of the JDRF has increased substantially, with the group responsible for over $1.4 billion in funding for diabetes research, with much of those funds coming from the Federal Government.
Competition to become a delegate is tough: over 1500 applicants applied for the 150 slots in 2009. To be eligible for consideration, applicants must have Type 1 diabetes, be aged 4 to 17, and never served as a delegate for the Children's Congress before. Delegates hail from across the U.S., with some honorary participants coming from other countries.
The application process is not easy. In addition to completing the actual application, prospective delegates need to write a letter (which is a maximum of 1200 words) covering several topics, including what it's like for him to live with Type 1; why a cure is important to him, and what he has done to promote the awareness of Type 1 in his community. Don't worry if you just are finding out about the Children's Congress and are interested in applying - there's still time: the deadline is October 4, 2010.
The rewards, however, are great. First and foremost, participants can deliver their message to key decision makers on Capitol Hill in person, which gives each delegate the power of educating and communicating the urgent need for additional financial support for diabetes research.
There are other perks to being a delegate as well. Some of the delegates from 2009 had the chance to meet President Obama, Nick Jonas, and of course Mary Tyler Moore, who is the Chairwoman of the JDRF and head of the Children's Congress. All delegates and one parent receive lodging and travel accommodations at no charge.
If your child is interested in participating, information can be found on the JDRF website. Applications can be submitted via the website, mail or by the JDRF Facebook page. Anyone submitting via Facebook in August has the chance to be entered into a lottery whereby one applicant will be chosen by bypassing the selection process.
For those applying, I wish you the best ... for every advocate, no matter how little, brings us a big step closer to a cure.