Children’s Congress is not only JDRF’s flagship advocacy event, it is one of the largest advocacy events in our nation’s capital. Since it was launched in 1999, JDRF has brought more than 1,000 kids and teenagers with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to Washington, D.C., to talk to their Members of Congress about the importance of funding T1D research.
Today, we know that Children’s Congress is so much more than just an event. Many of those 1,000 kids have grown up. In their new adult lives, these former delegates continue to prove that the right combination of optimism, perseverance, and community spirit can indeed change the world. In this weekly, five-part series, they show us how it’s done.
RYAN DINKGRAVE, 1999
“It’s not always easy, but I’ve never had trouble sleeping at night, because I know we’re making a difference.”
Age as delegate: 16
Age at T1D diagnosis: 10
Children’s Congress 1999
What he took away from Children’s Congress:
“Getting to talk about type 1 diabetes at such an important level really opened my eyes to the power of storytelling.”
Ryan got to tell his story to a national audience, in fact. He and two fellow delegates were interviewed by Charlie Gibson for a special segment on Children’s Congress on Good Morning America.
How he’s changing the world today:
Michigan State University
BA in telecommunications, information studies, and media (2005)
BA in communications (2005)
MA in public relations (2008)
Ryan is a member of the Board of Directors of the Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan Chapter of JDRF and serves on its Government Relations Committee. He also helped found the chapter’s Young Leadership Committee and serves as its research information volunteer.
During the day, Ryan is the manager of government affairs and grantwriting at Focus: HOPE. An education and social-services organization serving southeast Michigan, Focus: HOPE aims to enact “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice.” Practically speaking, that means helping to provide food and other basic needs, adult education and job training, and neighborhood revitalization for populations in need.
“So many people have needed that helping hand in recent years, and we can really see the difference we make every day,” Ryan says. “Sometimes I pull my hair out over federal funding and policy change. But then I go to a graduation or something for someone we’ve helped, and it brings me flying back to Earth. It’s not always easy, but I’ve never had trouble sleeping at night, because I know we’re making a difference.”
What’s next for Ryan? “I prefer to see what life brings me next. I just want to make as many massive and minor positive impacts as I can.”