So I’ve been putting off writing about Government Day because it’s really hard to write event recap posts, isn’t it? Or am I the only one who feels totally overwhelmed and unequipped to put all of the experiences and inspirations into words. It’s almost like trying to explain what a low blood sugar feels like - I can rattle off the symptoms but you won’t really get it unless you’ve had a low too. But going to Government Day is a million times better than having a bad low, so I really want to try to bring some of the experience to you.
When I look back on my four days in D.C., three major components stand out. The people I was with, the information that was shared, and the time spent advocating to our government representatives. I’m going to start with the whole reason more than 160 volunteers traveled to D.C. - advocating on Capitol Hill.
When we storm “the Hill” on our last day and a half in D.C., we are well prepared with a clear mission. Last year
it was to urge our officials to support the renewal of the Special Diabetes
Program. The SDP has two components and each piece provides $150 million towards
diabetes research. It was renewed as we rang in the New Year as part of the
Fiscal Cliff package, so our mission this year was to thank our representatives
for the renewal. However, it was only renewed for one year, so we also let them
know we’d be contacting them later in the year to ask for support again. It’s important to lock in a renewal as soon as possible, because the funding ensures that the research being done now on things such as the Artificial Pancreas will continue. After all, if I was a researcher working on a project whose funding was about to run out, you’d better believe I’d look for a new project to work on that had funds locked in. There are so many exciting treatments and technologies being developed for Type 1 Diabetes right now and it’s important to ensure they will continue. (More on that when I write about the information presented at Government Day!)
There is an amazing feeling that comes from being up on Capital Hill working for something you are passionate about. I walk the halls of the Senate and House offices knowing that many aren’t lucky enough to get the chance to experience what I’m experiencing. Honestly, I’m complete crap when it comes to fundraising - always have been and probably always will be. But when I’m advocating on the Hill, I’m helping to raise $300 million for diabetes treatments and technologies. Not too shabby! I team up with the advocates from the other Connecticut JDRF chapters and we educate our officials about the research going on and about what living with diabetes (or being the parent of a child with diabetes) is like. I often can give them a first hand example, as all that walking around Capital Hill usually has my low alarm blaring as I chomp glucose tabs in the Congressional offices!
Participating in Government Day also reminds me of how lucky I am that the members of Congress from Connecticut are all very supportive of diabetes issues and funding. It’s eye opening to see that not all states can say the same. Hearing stories from other advocates about tough meetings on the Hill makes me appreciate the reps I meet with all the more. It also makes me appreciate my fellow JDRF Advocacy volunteers who don’t give up even when their representatives aren’t receptive to our cause. It helps me remember just how much each and every constituent's voice counts and how important it is to let the government know how crucial diabetes funding is. It’s why I’m proud to volunteer as a JDRF advocate and why I hope everyone who reads this post will sign up too.