July 8, 2013 dawned like so many others, we raced around the house trying to get everyone in the car on time! But this time we were off on a trip of a lifetime, to Washington D.C. For the next three days Garrett & I would take on our Legislators and work to get support for the Special Diabetes Program. Garrett was chosen as 1 of 161 delegates from all over the world to attend JDRF Children’s Congress. This event happens every 2 years and brings children ages 4-17 together to educate lawmakers about the effects of living with T1D and to encourage their support of the SDP.
Our Monday got off to rocky start with a missed flight and a long stay at the Nashville airport. But we finally arrived in DC and were able to make it to dinner for the delegates. (Sadly Garrett missed singing with Crystal Bowersox from American Idol & having his photos made with the state delegates…3 from TN total.) Dinner was fun and we were able to meet Kate & Ahmed the other delegates from TN. Both are 17 and juniors in high school. At just 5, Garrett was one of the youngest delegates. Garrett loved that every meal at the conference had a gluten free line and he was able to eat what everyone else did! After dinner, we enjoyed fun in the pool with many other delegates!
Tuesday got off to an early start with breakfast and a little pin trading! (Many of the delegates brought pins from their states to trade and Garrett loved trading pins with other delegates and putting them on his lanyard.) After breakfast the delegates attended a Town Hall Meeting, which featured several celebrities. Each talked about their life with T1 and living with the highs, lows and in-betweens. They also talked about how T1 affects their jobs. During the meeting Mary Mouser, a teen star experienced a low and had to take a moment for a glucose tab. It was a moment that all in the room understood.
After the town hall meeting the celebrities were kind enough to stick around to sign
autographs and pose for pictures! Garrett enjoyed meeting Charlie Kimball a race care driver the most!
That afternoon we attended a Capital Hill Blitz meeting. This meeting helped to prepare us for what we would talk about with our Senators/Congressmen the next day. The information they gave us was so informative and I hope each of you will take the time to research the SDP and all it does for us! Last year alone we received $150 million in funding through the SDP and JDRF contributed $110 million! (What we are doing with JDRF DOES MATTER!) The SDP & JDRF were huge in supporting the research that brought us the pump, the artificial pancreas, smart insulin and so much more! Please read more about this program….
The rest of the day was given to us to do what we wished. Garrett & I joined his big sister Bella and daddy Frazier for an adventure at the National Mall!
On Wednesday, Garrett & I were excited, but a little nervous about our day. We would meet with our Congressman and both Senators! Very big meetings for a 5 year old and his mom! We boarded the charter buses to the capital and we were off!
Our first meeting was with Congressman Marsha Blackburn. Coincidentally, she was on our flight on the way on the day and sat beside Garrett & I on the plane! We initially met with her aid Margaret and showed our scrapbook and told about Garrett’s life with T1. Congressman Blackburn came in during our meeting and she and Garrett talked about Power Rangers and how he doesn’t like having T1. We took their picture together and then Margaret escorted us through the underground tunnels to the Congress side. I think this might have been Garrett’s favorite part!
We met up with Ahmed & Kate and attended the meetings with Senator Lamar Alexander’s and Senator Bob Corker’s office. Kate & Ahmed did a fantastic job telling their stories and working to convince these lawmakers that they should support the SDP. One of their aids even commented that for 17 year olds they were so poised and smart and they should look into a job as a lobbyist! Garrett did a fantastic job talking about life with a pump, how he just wanted to be normal and not have to have shots, infusion sets or finger prick tests. I was so proud of him and all the delegates who put themselves out of their comfort zones to talk about a serious issue!
Immediately following our meetings we had to rush to the photo op with Vice President Biden. Garrett was excited to finally be in a photo, but unfortunately the wait was a little much for his 5 year old body. After waiting over an hour for the photo, he finally had to come sit with mommy and have a snack. Here is a photo of Garrett with many of the delegates (some of the younger ones like Garrett had to step away).
After the photo we raced to a Senate hearing, which included testimonies by Jean Smart and Ray Allen of the Miami Heat. (Ray’s son Walker is a 6 year old living with T1 who was also a delegate.) This hearing was a special thing to be a part of and experience.
Garrett & I were thrilled to be a part of Children’s Congress and it is something we will never forget! This process made us that much more excited about finding a cure for T1 and that much more determined to BE a part of it. We can’t wait for it to happen we have to help it happen! You too can help!
Schedule a Promise To Remember Me meeting with your legislator or join one that is already scheduled. Tell your story and let them know how important it is to fund this research. You can join by clicking here…
Tell your story…make a video, start a blog, shout it from your social media platforms, but get the word out about the signs/symptoms of T1. Why a cure is important and what it will mean to you. Here is a 1 minute video we made for Children’s Congress.
Join the JDRF Walk For a Cure in your area. Here is the link for the Nashville walk on September 28 at Bicentennial Mall. Don’t have a team? Form one or join Team Garrett Allen, we’d love to have you!
We feel so lucky that Garrett had this opportunity to take part in Children’s Congress and our family will continue to work toward finding a cure!
– Sally and Garrett Allen