Every semester we have two to four interns in the Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. Sometimes they have a type 1 diabetes (T1D) connection and other times, they just want to make a difference. This semester, we have four interns; each of them coming from different backgrounds with different T1D experiences. Over the next few weeks, they will each write a blog about their expereicene at Children’s Congress and what they learned from the 161 delegates. First up, Bella. Meet Bella:
Most interns new to Washington, D.C., will spend their days
with monotony, with their activities ranging from sorting papers to making
copies to important errands and the occasional excursion to get coffee. While
these activities do sometimes come with the To-Do-List for a JDRF Advocacy and
Government Relations Intern, when I stepped into the office on 14 and K I never
expected to be involved in something as amazing and life-changing as JDRF’s
2013 Children’s Congress.
The first few weeks of my internship, I was told to fill out
various spreadsheets about Senators and Representatives, and while I did
understand that this was important information to have, I could not fully see
the outcome of my work. As the weeks went on, everything began to make sense. I
began to work on putting together the Children’s Congress scrapbooks, in which
every delegate puts together a book of memories, in order to explain to their Senator
or Congressperson what it is like to live with type 1 diabetes.
guess I forgot to mention the reason why I came to JDRF in the first place – I
was recently diagnosed with T1D on January 27, 2012, at the beginning of the
second semester of my freshman year of college. By this summer, I had around a
year and a half to get acclimated to my new life with T1D, but there are still
many, many things I have to learn.
Back to the scrapbooks – looking at the handmade drawings,
pictures, and words that these children who were so much younger than me
displayed on the pages brought tears to my eyes. Everyone tells me that I am so
brave for “surviving” my diagnosis, but it is really these children that are
the heroes. I cannot even begin to imagine birthday parties, sleepovers, and
soccer games with T1D.
After weeks and weeks of taking notes, stuffing envelopes,
and putting packets together, Children’s Congress 2013 was finally in session.
My mother called me the morning of the conference to ask if I was nervous. I
chuckled and replied, “What could I be nervous about? I’m just an intern…”
Famous last words! I was thrown into the conference and without even blinking
an eye, was given many tasks to complete and people to take care of. For some
people, this might be overwhelming, but I loved every second of it. Being so
involved in the inner-workings of the conference and having so much
responsibility in making sure everything ran smoothly was such an honor and a
There were many amazing things that occurred from July 8-10
on 14th and Pennsylvania Ave, NW, just blocks from the ultimate D.C.
destination for most, the White House. Smiles, laughs, the unavoidable high and
low blood sugars, handshakes, and connections. For me, one of the moments that
I will take with me forever is when I met a delegate named Bobby from
Connecticut. He was assigned to stand with me in line before the delegates went
to sing the “Promise to Remember Me” song. Bobby was the only child that walked
over accompanied by his mother, so I immediately approached him. It was obvious
that he was shy, so I told him he could stand next to me and hold my sign. This
small interaction sparked a connection, and the next second Bobby and I were
laughing and joking around together. It wasn’t until after the delegates had
finished the song and Bobby had run off with his brother that his mother
approached me and informed me that Bobby was autistic. I immediately felt my
heart warm with respect for his mother, who patiently supported her loving son
every single day with not only one, but two incredibly potentially debilitating
By the third and final day of Children’s Congress, Bobby and
I were buddies and he would continually find me wherever I was in the hotel, no
matter how busy I was. Even when I was in the middle of a daunting or stressful
task, it was Bobby that reminded me why I was at Children’s Congress, and even
interning at JDRF, in the first place. I intended on working at Children’s
Congress to be a role model for all of the delegates, but it turned out that
the delegates had a lot more to teach me than I could have ever imagined.
And for that, I could not be more grateful.