Madeline McElroy was 7 years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a condition that affects the pancreas, limiting its ability to produce the hormone insulin, which helps regulate glucose in the blood.
Today, seven years later, 14-year-old McElroy, from Sioux Falls in South Dakota, will get to visit the country's capital after being chosen by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) as one of the over 150 kids from across the nation to raise awareness about the disease. She will be in Washington D.C. next week to meet members of Congress and talk to lawmakers about her disease.
Because of her condition, McElroy uses a device that monitors her blood sugar level every five minutes and a pump that automatically gives her the needed insulin. It is her story that she hopes to share during her meeting with lawmakers.
She was chosen in February to be part of the JDRF Children's Congress, and this will have her sharing with members of Congress what it is like to live with the disease and why it is important to fund research on diabetes, a meeting that she hopes could make a difference.
"You connect with them. I think that they get a better understanding this is really changing people's lives; this is making people's lives better," McElroy said.
Figures from the American Diabetes Association show that around 1.25 million American adults and children have type 1 diabetes, which comprises 5 percent of diagnosed diabetes.
JDRF is a global organization that aims to find a cure for the disease. The goal of the Children's Congress, which happens every two years, is for the continued funding of the federal government for research.
The children who were selected following a competitive application process will meet the senators from their state and one congressman from their district. They are required to come up with a scrapbook for three members of Congress that will relate how they live as patients with Type 1 diabetes so lawmakers can remember their stories when they make policy decisions that concern the disease.
"Members of the staff and Congress will remember them, and when they're faced with a tough vote for funding a program or looking at positive policy that impacts diabetes, they really do remember these families," said grassroots advocacy director Brian Johnston.
Photo: Alden Chadwick | Flickr