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Young, but Fearless: Local Teens Head to Capitol Hill to Advocate for Type 1 Diabetes Research Funding

Most people of any age would be nervous at the idea of speaking to members of Congress and presenting to them the need for funding for a cause. Many would be too intimidated to consider it. However, two South Carolina teens are overcoming any fears and speaking up this week, because their cause is a matter of life and death, for themselves and many others.

Julian Negron of Lexington and Cameron Shephard of Ridgeville, both just 14, both battle type one diabetes every day. Both are representing the JDRF Palmetto Chapter at JDRF’s 2017 Children’s Congress, joining other children from around the U.S. to lobby their representatives and remind them of the vital need to support research that could reduce the burden of the disease and ultimately find a cure.

“My body doesn’t make insulin, so I have to give myself insulin through shots,” said Cameron, who was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was 7. “I can’t just go outside and play or my sugar will go down. You have to always watch it. You can never just go play and have fun.”

Julian, diagnosed at 13, shares the same experiences. “It just gave me more responsibility,” he said. “For my family, they have to worry about me a little bit more.”

Cameron and Julian were chosen from more than 1,500 applicants to represent the Palmetto Chapter in D.C. The selection committee made their decision based on grades, participation in advocacy efforts for JDRF, and an essay written by each applicant in the form of a letter to their representative in Congress, explaining how type one has affected them and those they love.

“I wanted to get it right, so I asked all my family members and took notes,” Julian said. “I had to do like three rough drafts.”

For Cameron, public speaking is a challenge, but one she’s found the courage to overcome, appearing before graduate students at the Citadel in addition to doing media interviews before the trip. “This has been a great experience for her to come out of that shell and learn to share her story,” said Beth McCrary, development coordinator for the JDRF Palmetto Chapter. “I’m very proud of her and Julian for speaking up and being advocates.”

“These children and their parents face the burden of type one diabetes every day, and by sharing their stories, they become the most powerful advocates we have in fighting type one diabetes. They represent millions of other families like mine who need the support of the government to help us end this disease,” said Derek Rapp, JDRF president and CEO. “Children’s Congress gives the T1D community a unified voice in front of Congress and a way to urge our government leaders to continue supporting research.”

More information about type one diabetes and JDRF’s efforts to beat it is available online.


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