Michael Mattis is the Advocacy Team Chair (ATC) for JDRF’s Coastal Carolina Branch in Wilmington, North Carolina. When his 10-year-old younger brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in 1998, it was only natural that he and his family became involved with JDRF. It wasn’t until his daughter, Eve, was diagnosed with T1D at just 18 months old that he got involved with JDRF Advocacy. Michael called upon his background in public speaking – he is a pastor – to help empower him to share his story at local JDRF events. This small step was just the beginning, and Michael quickly began sharing his story at many JDRF events. Michael later joined the JDRF Coastal Carolina Branch’s Board of Directors, became a research advocate, and ultimately accepted the role of ATC. Today, Eve is thriving, and Michael continues to advocate each and every day for a cure for T1D!
It only takes a small step to make a big impact for such a meaningful cause. Michael explains that becoming an advocate is so easy – simply sign-up to receive advocacy action alerts, via email or text, and then ask your Members of Congress for their support for critical T1D research. He found that becoming an advocate is incredibly fulfilling as well, as it’s easy to see the tangible difference that this simple act made for not only his family, but for the countless others affected by this devastating autoimmune disease.
Michaels feels that one of the highlights of being an ATC is attending JDRF Government Day – an uplifting in-person event full of training sessions, relationship-building, community support, and meeting with your Members of Congress to educate them about T1D, while advocating for support of pertinent legislation. During JDRF Government Day, he was able to tell his family’s personal story, and it is truly stories just like theirs which play such a critical part in the continued renewal of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP). Michael explains in his own words that the best part of being involved with JDRF Advocacy is: “knowing that there are immediate results in what we’re doing (for our loved ones).”
Advancements in technology like the insulin pump, Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM), and an Artificial Pancreas system, have proven to Michael just how important JDRF’s research and advocacy efforts are, as he’s had the opportunity to personally witness vast improvements since his brother’s diagnosis. Although very rewarding, Michael admits that being an ATC is not without its challenges! In the beginning, Michael found that it was difficult to understand the political aspects of being an advocate, and that it took time and patience with regards to “getting his feet wet leading the team.”
Getting up in front of others and sharing his personal story is something Michael cannot do without shedding a tear. He describes it as “one of the most powerful and rewarding things” he has done, and that it keeps him and others inspired to continue advocating. By sharing his own story, and those of his loved ones, he can encourage and challenge others to support JDRF’s mission to create a world without T1D.
Michael’s six-word summary of his ATC experience is simple, but powerful: challenging, inspiring, rewarding, enlightening, humbling, and an honor.