Wednesday, July 20, 2011

JDRF's Children's Congress, Part 2: The Most Amazing 3 Days!!!

One month ago (June 20, 2011), Charlotte and I began the most amazing 3-day journey! After spending our morning strolling around The National Mall, we headed back to the hotel for the official registration for the JDRF 2011 Children's Congress. From the moment we stepped to the registration tables, we were greeted by the friendliest, most enthusiastic people and felt so welcomed! We got ourselves signed in and received a bag with our folder, name badges, shirts, and other goodies...including a Build-A-Bear rabbit that Charlotte named "DC Bunny"!  Charlotte was so excited to see so many other kids checking in with their families...and she made fast friends with two of the sweetest little girls ever (Avery from New Jersey and Sydney from Idaho)!!! And from my perspective, being around so many other D-Moms and D-Dads was incredible...and it was truly amazing to be in a room with around 300 people who all truly "get it"!!!
Sydney, Charlotte & Avery
Our first day was lots of fun! After registration and a quick lunch with Sydney and her mom (Shamae), we were back for song rehearsal, state delegate photos, and then the Welcome dinner! The delegates did a great job rehearsing the "Promise to Remember Me" song with Crystal Bowersox. Charlotte had the opportunity after the song rehearsal to meet Crystal and get a quick picture taken. I have to say, Crystal was really down to earth and so nice with all of the delegates. And it totally made Charlotte's day when she gave Crystal a set of Mardi Gras beads (which we brought to trade with the other delegates attending CC) and she put them on right away and still had them on later when we saw her for the state delegate photo!!!

Charlotte & Crystal Bowersox -
check out the Mardi Gras beads :)
The Welcome dinner was amazing too! We were officially welcomed to the event by Stephany and Ellie Shaheen (Chair Mom and daughter), Jeffrey Brewer (JDRF President & CEO), and Aaron Kowalski, PhD (Assistant Vice President, Treatment Therapies). And while they were all quite impressive, I think I was most moved by the introduction of each of the child delegates...I don't think there are any words that can truly capture how I felt as I watched and listened to over 150 children from across the country (including several international delegates) share their name, state, and age of diagnosis; it was compelling to say the least!
Charlotte & Sydney...and the most AMAZING D-art...
the portrait above was made by a delegate's father from
1 year's worth of her used test strips
Charlotte and I were so pumped up from all of the day's excitement we could hardly sleep! We woke early the next morning and started our day with breakfast followed by the Town Hall: Role Models with Diabetes. Charlotte had the amazing opportunity to hear from Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor...she spoke candidly about her diagnosis and how living with Type 1 diabetes has influenced her life. The 2nd panel for the Town Hall consisted of celebrity guests Dr. Nat Strand (winner of The Amazing Race), Gary Hall (swimmer & Olympic medalist), Carling Coffing (professional golfer), Kendall Simmons (former NFL player for the Pittsburgh Steelers), and Dr. Aaron Kowalski (JDRF research scientist). Each of these celebrities answered questions about their experiences living with Type 1 diabetes and how it's impacted their lives and how some (who were diagnosed later in life) were told that they would not be able to achieve (what they have now) because of diabetes. It's been interesting listening to Charlotte talk about the Town Hall. I thought at her age she might have gotten fidgety and not really listened, but I was clearly wrong about that! It seems that she did, in fact, listen intently and walked away from the event having learned that, despite her diabetes, she really can do anything she puts her mind to...a great lesson for everyone!

After the Town Hall we attended our Hill Blitz Training session and then enjoyed our Sponsor Luncheon before heading out to Upper Senate Park for the amazing (albeit, incredibly hot) Song Performance! The delegates were joined by Crystal Bowersox as they performed "Promise to Remember Me" was a great ending to another incredible day!
A very sweaty Charlotte & Avery
after their song performance
Our final day began very early...but there was no time for being tired! We had a quick breakfast, picked up our scrapbooks to bring to our meetings and headed out to Capitol Hill (with the other Louisiana delegate and her mom) for our meeting with Senator David Vitter. Charlotte's other meetings were with with Congressman Steve Scalise and Senator Mary Landrieu. The focus of the meetings was to encourage our members of Congress to join the Diabetes Caucus if they hadn't already and to get them to sign on a letter urging the FDA to expedite the outpatient research guidelines for the artificial pancreas. Charlotte's meetings with our members of Congress went well and I left each of them feeling satisfied that her story and message were heard!
Charlotte and Congressman Steve Scalise
Following our meetings, we attended a Senate Hearing: Transforming Lives Through Diabetes Research. We listened to powerful testimony from Kevin Kline, Griffin Rodgers, MD with the NIDDK/NIH, Charles Zimlicki, PhD with the FDA, as well as 4 amazing Children's Congress delegates (Caroline Jacobs,Jack Schmittlein, Kerry Morgan, and Jonathan Platt). I believe Charlotte was most intrigued by the testimony of Kerry Morgan and her experiences participating in clinical trials, including an inpatient trial with the artificial pancreas. Charlotte has shared with me that she would love to have even one day, as Kerry described, without having to worry about blood sugars and carb counting! I'm hopeful that she'll be able to have many of those days....perhaps not right away, but I'm determined to keep pushing until it happens!

Charlotte and I walked away from our experiences at Children's Congress feeling inspired and empowered! We're excited about our experiences and the impact we made during our visit to Washington DC! Our journey in DC may be over, but we know our work has really just begun! We can't stop we've signed up for the 2011-12 Promise to Remember Me Campaign. We will continue meeting with our Members of Congress and working hard to make a difference! And one day Charlotte (and everyone else living with Type 1 diabetes) can experience carefree days without worries of blood sugars, insulin and carb counting...and one day they'll all be able to say that they had diabetes!

***Disclaimer: Charlotte was selected as a delegate for the 2011 JDRF's Children's Congress. JDRF paid for our air travel as well as our hotel accommodations and some meals during the 3-days of the Children's Congress events. JDRF did not ask for me to blog about Children's Congress...I just chose to since it was such an incredible experience! 


  1. Wow, what an experience. I love that Charlotte really took the message that "she can do anything" to heart. She are showing her that in all you both are doing together to make a difference for all of us. Thank you.

    P.S. That is so cool that she hooked up with Sydney!

  2. what a wonderful experience! I LOVE the portrait made of test strips as well...incredible!

  3. LOVE!!! LOVE!!! LOVE!!! It's so exciting :) Thank you for sharing about your amazing trip!!!

    I love Shamae :) She and I went to Vegas for a weekend last year -- just decided to meet up IRL! It was awesome :) It's such a big world, but when I see pics of Charlotte and Syd, I realize that it's really not that big at all :)

    Glad to share our small world!

  4. Hi there!
    Every time I stumble accross another parent who has a child with type 1 and read their story it touches my personally. I wish you and your well!