Government Day Advocates Visit 504 Congressional Offices

Government Day is much more than just a day. At the 13th annual JDRF event, held March 3 to 6 in Washington, D.C., 130 grassroots leaders and advocates from across the country came together to discuss upcoming advocacy goals and receive hands-on government-relations training before filling the halls of Capitol Hill. Over two days, volunteers completed no fewer than 504 visits with their members of Congress and effectively kicked off JDRF’s advocacy efforts to renew the Special Diabetes Program this year.

Held at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, VA, Government Day began with an inspirational message delivered by Cynthia Ford. Ms. Ford is a member of JDRF’s International Board of Directors, the chair of JDRF’s Government Relations Committee, and the mother of Albert, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) 15 years ago. Cynthia Rice, JDRF’s vice president of government relations, highlighted JDRF’s advocacy accomplishments in 2011, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s release in December of draft regulatory guidance for artificial pancreas (AP) systems. Ms. Rice gave an update on JDRF’s official comments submitted to the FDA in response to the draft guidance. (To learn more, click here.) And she covered high-priority advocacy goals for 2012, including the renewal of the Special Diabetes Program, a legislative initiative that has provided $1.9 billion in critically needed support for T1D research at the National Institutes of Health.

Laura Whitton, JDRF’s national director of government relations, provided attendees with a comprehensive rundown of key legislative issues to bring to the attention of members of Congress during their visits. The JDRF Grassroots Advocacy team presented updates on the program and the Promise to Remember Me Campaign. Established in 2000 and still running strong, the Promise Campaign recruits volunteers in a yearly pledge to personally visit their senators and representatives to advance the mission of JDRF.

Before heading to Capitol Hill, attendees enjoyed a research presentation by Richard A. Insel, M.D., JDRF’s chief scientific officer, and Judith E. Fradkin, M.D., director of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The two physician-scientists discussed the relationship between JDRF and the National Institutes of Health; the numerous research strategies put in place to reach shared goals in the areas of cure, treatment, and prevention research; and our success, in terms of treatment advances and improved health for people living with T1D.

JDRF President and CEO Jeffrey Brewer welcomed attendees to the Government Day dinner with his own presentation, in which he attested to the importance of involvement in grassroots advocacy and its power in accomplishing crucial milestones; displayed JDRF’s new brand strategy; described JDRF’s expanding efforts to represent people of all ages and all stages within the T1D community; and explained how JDRF is building collaborative partnerships to accelerate T1D research goals.

At the dinner, Camille Nash, JDRF’s national volunteer chair of grassroots advocacy, presented six exceptional individuals with the year’s advocacy awards. Jeanne Mansfield, Orange County Chapter, received the JDRF Perseverance Award. Tim Rivers, Tampa Bay Chapter, received the Team Builder Award. Barbara Feinstein, Central Jersey Chapter, and A.J. Pistilli, South Jersey Chapter, both received the Rookie of the Year Award. Jim Cooper, South Central Texas Chapter, received the Advocate of the Year Award. And Connie Etheridge, Maryland Chapter, received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Government Day may be only once a year, but the experience and tools that grassroots leaders and advocates bring home with them—to all 86 chapters and branches—and the congressional support they build will be invaluable in continuing JDRF’s crucial work in the coming year. Onward and upward!