What could a journalist, a race-car driver, a scientist, an actress, and a chef all have in common every single day? If you guessed “type 1 diabetes,” you’d be right—but it’s more than that. The five JDRF celebrity advocates who shared their stories today as Children’s Congress Town Hall Role Models have learned to live with type 1 diabetes (T1D). But more importantly, their lives have all seen remarkable triumphs, despite—and in some ways because of—T1D.
This year’s Town Hall was moderated by sportscaster Brian Kenny, a parent of a daughter with T1D and himself a role model for our delegates.
The 161 Children’s Congress delegates had some excellent questions to put to their panel. We’ve highlighted a few of the funniest, the most thought-provoking, and all in all the most memorable moments.
Leslie Adkins is a journalist and writer, and most recently worked at NBC News as an assistant producer for the primetime newsmagazine Dateline. She was diagnosed with T1D at the age of five and this May marked her 20th year living with T1D. She has been active in the JDRF community since childhood and has worked extensively with the JDRF Young Leadership Committee New York City Chapter. “Every time I check my blood sugar or change my cartridge, I think, ‘this is making me stronger.’”
Haley (14 years old, New York): “How do you manage control of your diabetes while traveling?”
Leslie: “In news, we try to always be prepared … That being said, in news, when something happens [to derail our plans], we just go.”
Charlie Kimball is an open-wheel race-car driver with Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing in the IZOD IndyCar series. Now in his third IndyCar season, he was diagnosed with T1D in 2007 and is the first licensed driver with diabetes in the history of IndyCar to race at the highest level of the series. He also is the first driver with diabetes to qualify for, complete, and lead laps at the famed Indianapolis 500. “I think I’m a better driver with diabetes than I would be without it … I love it more because of that, because I had to work a little bit harder for it.”
Cameron (13 years old, Alabama): “How does the adrenaline of racing at 220 miles per hour and over affect your blood sugar?”
Charlie: “My IndyCar is a little different than everyone else’s … On my dash, I have speed and tire pressure here; I have blood sugar there—I have car data and body data.”
Aaron J. Kowalski, Ph.D., JDRF’s vice president of treat therapies, is an internationally recognized expert in the area of diabetes technologies and has been a leader of JDRF’s Artificial Pancreas Project. At the age of three, his brother Stephen was diagnosed with T1D, and in 1984, at the age of 13, Aaron was also diagnosed with T1D. “My brother told me, ‘you’re going to do everything the other kids do, and more.’”
Carson (10 years old, Idaho): “When people get discouraged and say there will never be a cure, what do you say to them?”
Aaron: “As a scientist, working with the smartest scientists and companies, I feel more optimistic than ever. I feel certain we’re going to get to a cure. Will it happen tomorrow? No, it will take some time … But we have some of the smartest people working on it, and I feel 100 percent sure we’re going to get there.”
Mary Mouser is an actress best known for her role as Lacey Fleming on the ABC series Body of Proof. She is 17 years old and was diagnosed with T1D at age 13. Mary played the roles of both Savannah O’Neal and Emma Reynolds in the Disney Channel’s original movie Frenemies and has done voice-over work for such animated features as Bambi 2. Mary is currently starring in The Fosters on ABC Family. “I’m not just a diabetic. I have diabetes, and I’m an actress, and my favorite color’s blue, and I have a dog named Marie Antoinette.”
Jack (11 years old, Oklahoma): “Are you single? But seriously … how has having T1D affected your career?”
Mary: “To answer your first question, I think you’re already too cute for me … In acting, you have to draw from something. I think diabetes has given me a lot to draw from and a lot to work with.”
Sam Talbot, chef, restaurateur, author, and TV personality, is a host of AOL’s GMC Trade Secrets. A semi-finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef, Same was voted Fan Favorite in season 2. Since then, he has penned the Rodale published book The Sweet Life: Diabetes Without Boundaries. Diagnosed at age 12, Sam lives every hour with a profound understanding of the impact of food on life and life on food. “There are three things that we worry about as diabetics … and exercise is just as important as what you eat and checking your blood sugar. Whatever you guys can do, whether it’s soccer or baseball, just make sure you do it.”
Jonah (8 years old, California): “Does having diabetes change the recipes you create or the way you prepare food?”
Sam: “When you take food from the land when it’s grown and where it’s grown … you can keep it really simple, and really fresh, and let it speak for itself … You’ll feel so alive, and your blood sugar just streamlines.”
We invited five delegates to write a very special series—the very first Children’s Congress Delegate Blog! In the weeks leading up to their trip to Washington, D.C., these delegates gave us their thoughts on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happy glucose control. But most importantly, they let us know just what it means to them to be delegates of Children’s Congress 2013. Read on.
Jonathan Platt — 9 years old, California
Children’s Congress 2013 Chair Kid
Bring On Children’s Congress!
Delegate Do’s and Don’ts: How to Make the Most of Children’s Congress
Catrina Curtis — 15 years old, Mississippi
My Sweet Sixteen on Capitol Hill
My Friend, My Inspiration
Amelia Rehrman — 11 years old, Pennsylvania
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Capitol Hill Essentials
Reed Gialketsis — 17 years old, Nevada
A Numbers Game, or: We Are All Number One
Word to the Wise: A T1D Slang Dictionary
Cindy Chen — 17 years old, California
Life Under the Microscope: My Summer as a Research Intern
Letters From the Cusp of Childhood/Adulthood
The Delegates Are Coming!
MONDAY, JULY 8
An Opening Refrain Filled With Promise
Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Monday
TUESDAY, JULY 9
The Role of a Lifetime
Partners Working Toward a Cure
Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Tuesday
WEDNESDAY, JULY 10
Many Happy Returns
Children’s Congress Rocks Capitol Hill
Young Diabetes Advocates Take Capitol Hill by Storm
Children’s Congress Photo Gallery: Wednesday