The JDRF Advocacy office has been extremely lucky this summer, having four amazing, unique and hardworking interns. We are sad to lose them as the summer wraps, however before they left, we had them each write a blog post about their experience at Children’s Congress, the main campaign they all helped on. We already introduced you to Bella and Michelle. Now, we are excited to introduce you to Beth, who joined us all the way from Canada. Meet Beth, eh?
Having volunteered with JDRF in the past, I knew that an internship with JDRF Advocacy was going to be a positive and rewarding experience. I had never heard of Children’s Congress so I didn’t realize what exactly was in store for me and the other interns.
A large portion of my first half of my internship was spent preparing for Children’s Congress, such as assembling Children’s Congress scrapbooks. Going through all of these scrapbooks, I felt like I got to know many of the delegates, as well as their personal type 1 diabetes (T1D) stories. However, meeting them in person during the conference was the most heart-warming and inspiring experience of my life thus far.
I was diagnosed with T1D in my senior year of high school, just after my 18th birthday, about three and a half years ago. The diagnosis really disconcerted me. Even as an adult, type 1 diabetes is difficult to manage. At Children’s Congress, each and every delegate had been handling T1D during their childhood – shouldering responsibilities with a level of maturity and determination that I envy. Although it was heartbreaking to know that I was surrounded by other people affected by T1D, the atmosphere of Children’s Congress was one of hope: T1D research is promising, but more importantly, I know just how dedicated the members of our T1D community (non-diabetics and diabetics alike) are towards finding a cure.
Children’s Congress was a unique experience, punctuated with typical T1D issues like high and low blood sugars, and also the occasional grumpy or sleepy kid. All of the hard work by JDRF staff and volunteers more than paid off by the time CC13 rolled around. Though a little hectic, the conference was wonderful. Having even the small role of an intern was such a pleasure. Going into Children’s Congress, I was prepared for long hours and maybe even doing a little bit of grunt work. To be honest though, I was unprepared and a little overwhelmed by the number of other T1D people in the same place as me. When my insulin pump beeped, I saw four delegates standing near me pull out their own pumps to check! For the very first time in my life, we were in the majority.
Before this summer, I had never spent any time with other diabetics. I had met one T1D girl at university, and one T1D runner at a JDRF half marathon I ran in March. Now, I’m working every day in an office with three other T1D interns. That seemed odd enough to me to begin with. With Children’s Congress, it felt like everyone there had T1D and it was insane. Insane that so many people in the same room suffered from the same disease. Insane that the room was so infused with empathy, support and belief that this life-threatening disease can – and will – be conquered.
Even more jarring for me was seeing the parents interact with their T1D children. Having been diagnosed at 18, my parents never had to deal with my diabetes in their daily routine, so I guess I never really understood how difficult it would be to have a child with T1D. I didn’t ever think about parents having to wake up in the middle of the night to check blood sugar, or having to constantly worry about their kids when they go to a friend’s house. After talking to my mom after the conference and telling her how I felt, she told me that maybe it seemed like she didn’t deal with my diabetes, but I should make no mistake that my health is foremost in their thoughts every day. With CC13, I gained new understanding and respect for every T1D parent, and also a new perspective on how T1D deeply and personally affects whole families and not just individuals.
I learned so much from the delegates and families of Children’s Congress, and I will always appreciate that. Above all, they reminded me to stay positive and embrace whatever life throws at you, even if it happens to be type 1 diabetes. The CC13 delegates and parents were shining examples of taking things in stride and not stressing over the small things. I definitely benefited a great deal from my experience, and I know that the action-packed conference left a lasting impression. I’ll always cherish meeting brave children who not only combat T1D every day, but are willing to advocate so future generations won’t have to face the same daily battles. Children’s Congress will permanently remind me of the value of striving to ensure that T1D never diminishes a childhood.