Oftentimes, it is within a community that we draw the strength necessary to support beliefs, goals and dreams. In the case of C.C. Dragoni, however, the community from which she seeks support for her hope of a cure are from those who share her condition: Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, or T1D, occurs when an individual’s pancreas stops producing insulin, which helps manage and encourage sugar levels within the bloodstream. Those with T1D manage the condition through an insulin pump or administer insulin shots to make sure their body is getting the proper blood sugar levels needed.
A total of 1.25 million Americans are currently living with T1D, with 40,000 Americans, many young children and adults, being diagnosed every year. As scary as it sounds, T1D does not stop people from participating fully in normal activities like sports, field trips, and other extracurriculars. If anything, the diagnosee’s desire to live fully, happily and as normally as possible while managing T1D is of the greatest importance.
Dragoni, 11, of Powell, is no exception, having been elected to represent Ohio as a representative in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress. Dragoni, an upcoming sixth-grader, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. to attend the event, which is being held July 8-10. JDRF, and by proxy, Children’s Congress, was established to raise money and awareness for people living with Type 1 diabetes.
“Children’s Congress and its delegates travels to Washington to help real-life Congress members understand T1D better, in the hopes of passing more laws enabling T1D research,” said Lauren Dragoni, C.C.’s mother. “Afterwards, the Ohio delegates meet with their state representatives in Congress to advocate for the renewal of The Special Diabetes Program, which funds the research needed to find the cure to T1D.”
JDRF, or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, is an organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness to combat Type 1 diabetes (T1D). JDRF, through fundraisers in the form of walks-a-thons, bike races and golf outings, raises money for T1D research, in hopes of one day finding a cure.
JDRF’s Children’s Congress, however, does not work with the monetary aspects, but rather with the campaigning and “human” portion of the organization. With representatives all over the country, members of Children’s Congress travel to Washington, D.C. every year to assist in connection with fellow JDRF reps and educate actual members of Congress about T1D.
“Children’s Congress helps gives a face to T1D, support funding and research, as well as to say thank you to any supporters of the cause,” said Kelsey Gaskins, director of the JDRF Central Ohio branch. “They do meet with local elected officials in D.C. and their hometown to, and get to sit in on Congress sessions to see how government works to back research for a T1D cure.”
Gaskins, along with other JDRF leaders, helps to organize and consolidate the Central Ohio chapter of JDRF, providing support and help to young kids of all ages living with T1D.
“I feel so honored to be selected for Children’s Congress, and to get to experience this,” said Dragoni. “I don’t know a lot of other kids with T1D , so it’s going to be fun to get to know other people who get to do this with me.”
While Dragoni has a unique perspective as a delegate, others with T1D use different strategies to handle their diagnosis and stay positive throughout their day-to-day lives.
“The adjustment (to my diagnosis) was very difficult, but JDRF has always been there for me,” said Madison Seibert, 17. “They help me when I have questions about anything or when I am just looking for support and hope for a cure. They are very helpful and helped me see the positives of my diagnosis.”
Seibert, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 11, is going to be a senior at Olentangy Liberty High School. In addition to playing beach volleyball and pursuing a passion in medicine, Siebert also volunteers for JDRF in her free time.
“My diagnosis … can be very difficult,” Seibert admits, “but some positives of my diagnosis are that it helps you become stronger as a person, you get to bring snacks to the movies, you receive extra help and care in school and in public, and you get involved in a great community with a lot of support.”
While there is still much work to do with finding a T1D cure, Dragoni and many other delegates look toward their roles as a chance to help impact the research for a cure.
“It is the only goal I think I could say,” said Dragoni. “To find a T1D cure is the biggest and most important goal.”
Sophia Englehart, an Olentangy Liberty High School graduate, is an intern for The Delaware Gazette. She is majoring in journalism at Ohio University.