Lemonade Life

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ms. Blass Goes to Washington

Considering how vocal I am about living with diabetes and my determination to help find a cure through political advocacy, fundraising and education, someone might be under the impression that I have always liked to talk about diabetes.

Well, I haven't.

In fact, for most of my childhood and up through the middle of high school, I didn't like talking about diabetes. I never hid the diabetes, and all my classmates and teachers knew very well what was going on, but I only attended conferences or outreach events when my parents brought me with them. A girl I had met at camp was a very vocal advocate for diabetes, but I just wasn't into it.

Why would I want to talk and think about diabetes anymore than I already had to?

It was brought to my attention around my freshman year in high school that had a harder time living with diabetes than me. It is true that children face discrimination, depression and a lack of available medication around the world. And I finally decided that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do something about it.

Not alone, of course. But when I read on the JDRF website that they wanted children to go to Congress to ask for more funding for research (and they were going to pay for you to go), I thought, "Why not?"

Children's Congress. It was an idea started by a nine-year-old boy named Tommy Solo and it has turned into one of JDRF's biggest national media events of the year. A hundred children with diabetes travel to the nation's capitol to ask their Representatives, their Senators, for help in curing their disease.

The press conference and
performing the Promise to Remember Me song
We stand in unison on the steps of the Capitol singing our hearts out, asking our Members of Congress and the world to "promise to remember me."

We sit together as our fellow delegates and their parents, celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore and Kevin Kline, and doctors like Allan Spiegal, plea on our behalf to a Senate committee. Sitting in a crowded room, with multiple cameras from network television studios rolling, with parents whispering and crying, with the youngest kids sitting in a circle in front of the Senate committee, you can feel the electricity empowering each person to stand up and shout out that they want a cure, that they deserve a cure, and that the Members of Congress are the ones that can help.

Me and Senator Gordon Smith (R)

We meet with our Senators and Representatives individually to discuss with them the challenges of living with diabetes, the heartbreak parents face everyday, and frustration and anger that we all have in being told "five more years."

And when we are done with our political duties, we return to the hotel for an evening of laughter and dancing, of discussion and strategic planning, of children meeting other children from their local area who also have diabetes and parents who finally meet others who are as passionate and determined about finding a cure as they are. People who understand and people who are there to fight.

There is another Children's Congress coming soon. This one will take place in Washington D.C. from June 17-20, 2007. If your child is between the ages of 4 and 17, I strongly urge you to apply. Applications are due next Thursday, October 5 and you can apply online at the JDRF website.

And if you think it's too late, it's not. I applied for Children's Congress the day before the applications were due. I didn't just mail it in the day before, I wrote it the day before. And for whatever reason, they actually let me go.

If you believe you have the heart and mind for this lifechanging event, please apply.

(And a personal note to Sandra Miller: I swear to God, if you and Joseph do not apply for this, I am not going to be happy with you, young lady.)


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