HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - David Dikeman, an 11 years old from Honolulu, had a once-in-a-lifetime experience in July. In between meeting kids from around the country and celebrity role models who also live with type 1 diabetes, he lobbied in Washington DC to members of Congress (specifically Hawaii Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono) to urge continued federal government support for research that aims to reduce the burden of the disease David has lived with since he was 9 years old—type 1 diabetes (T1D), an autoimmune disease that and strikes suddenly and is unrelated to diet and lifestyle with no cure.
David was one of more than 160 children—ages 4 to 17, and representing all 50 states and 6 different countries —who visited the nation's capital as delegates at JDRF 2015 Children's Congress, held July 13-15. David was chosen through the JDRF Hawaii chapter nomination from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants nationwide to represent the State of Hawaii at this biennial event.
JDRF Children's Congress, the largest grassroots event held in support of research for T1D, culminated with a congressional committee hearing on July 15, which included testimony from selected delegates. The focus of these personal testimonies was to draw attention to the daily struggles of those living with the disease, and the need for maintained support for funding of research to bring us closer to a world without T1D.
In addition to participating in T1D Role Model Town Hall sessions, the Delegates took part in the "Diabetes Research: Improving Lives on the Path to a Cure" hearing with the United States Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R- ME). During the hearing, delegate witnesses testified to a standing room only chamber full of our delegates and their families. They testified on the rigors of daily life with T1D and how critical it is that Medicare includes coverage for continuous glucose monitors (CGM). The testimony also provided perspective stressing the need for additional funding and explaining the different approaches JDRF researchers are taking towards better treating, preventing, and ultimately curing T1D. The senators applauded the delegates and the witnesses for taking matters into their own hands and coming to Washington, DC to testify with standing ovations and thunderous applause.
Dave shared one of his most memorable moments was "the confirmation that more work needs to be done to educate and bring awareness to type 1 diabetes. Everyone, no matter what age, has the ability to make a difference by speaking up when something is important to them. Sharing my personal experiences and what I do to manage my diabetes will make a difference so I want to encourage others not to be afraid to share information that can educate and help others. We can all make change if we start with what we do ourselves."
David Dikeman has made it his personal crusade to educate both children and adults about type 1 diabetes . He enjoys talking to groups of any size and openly shares his personal journey and diagnosis at only 9 years old. When not working as Hawaii's delegate David loves spending time with his family, creating new recipes, playing football and making movies with his brother Hayden.
The JDRF Children's Congress program was inspired by then eight-year-old Tommy Solo from Massachusetts in 1999. He overheard adult JDRF volunteers talking about going to Washington, D.C. to talk to Congress, and thought it would be great if children could go, too, because their voices also needed to be heard. JDRF Children's Congress inspires lawmakers to remember the children who live with T1D when making decisions about medical research funding and voting on other important federal government issues relating to diabetes. The young delegates' personal stories, told in their own words, are often more powerful than almost any other type of education a legislator might receive.
Tommy's idea quickly became a well-developed event, first held in 1999. Since then, nine successful JDRF Children's Congresses have been held, growing in scope each time, every other year (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015).
Today, JDRF Children's Congress brings more than 150 children with T1D, who attend with one parent or guardian, to Washington, D.C. JDRF Children's Congress participants represent all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and several countries around the world. They come together as advocates to meet on Capitol Hill with members of Congress and other key federal policymakers, to help educate them about the critical need for federal funding for T1D research.
To learn more about JDRF Children's Congress, please visit their website at http://cc.jdrf.org/.