Every two years, more than 150 children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) gather in Washington, D.C., to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government. The children, ages 4 to 17, represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The delegates in JDRF’s Children’s Congress enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help Members of Congress understand what life with T1D is like and why research to fund life-changing therapies until a cure can be found is so critical. They speak up on behalf of the millions of people living with T1D and the families and friends who love them.
This year the Congress will be held on July 24-25, in Washington D.C.
The JDRF Children’s Congress T1D advocacy program was inspired by a boy from Massachusetts named Tommy Solo. One day, at age nine, he asked his mother, “Why can’t kids go to Washington and tell their Representatives about what it is like to have type 1 diabetes and let them know that we want scientists to find a cure?” His mom and other JDRF volunteers agreed and, in 1999, the first-ever JDRF Children’s Congress took place in Washington, D.C.
Since then, nine successful Children’s Congresses have been held, one every other year, and more than 1,000 kids with T1D have served as delegates. JDRF Children’s Congress has been essential to securing continued government funding of T1D research and to raise awareness of the daily burden of Americans living with this serious autoimmune disease.
Delegates form lifelong friendships, meet T1D role models, develop leadership skills, and leave Children’s Congress empowered to use their voices for the change that will improve their lives and the lives of all people affected by T1D.
Helotes own Austin Thorton, 13 years of age was selected to represent Texas at the Congress.
Austin enjoys playing football, baseball and spending time with his dog and his friends. He’s been involved with JDRF for years. He has attended Promise to Remember Me meetings with his father, fundraised for the JDRF One Walk, and spoken at his local Gala. Austin knows how important it is for him to advocate before Congress because of how much he’s benefitted from new technology. He says, “The need for new technology and research for the big one (the cure) is growing. And I believe we should take all the help we can get to find a cure for this horrible disease.”