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Children’s Congress 2019: A Behind-The-Scenes Look by Teagan Hodges

August 29, 2019

JDRF Childrens Congress 2019

You might remember this blog post we did back in May about our incredible advocate, Teagan Hodges, and why she was heading to Washington D.C. You can read it here, if you missed it. After experiencing 3 action-packed days at JDRF Children’s Congress 2019, here’s what Teagan had to say:

“JDRF Children’s Congress 2019 was an incredible 3 days. During the application process I had to write a blog about myself and Rachel and I were matched as we had a lot of common interests and are close in age. Rachel is from Arizona, USA. We had been in contact for 4 months leading up to the event and I was happy to meet her in person at long last. Over the 3 days I got the opportunity to meet lots of the other delegates who had either travelled internationally or had come to Washington D.C. from their home state in America.

Teagan and Rachel

Meeting at the Australian Embassy

Our first priority was a meeting at the Australian Embassy, where I met with Sarah Storey, Minister-Counsellor Chief of Congressional Liaison and Rebecca Allen, Cultural Affairs Manager Public Diplomacy. I gave them a scrapbook that I made about my journey with T1D and I also spoke to them about my advocacy work and shared with them why research into type 1 diabetes is so important to me. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet with the Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey. But I was very grateful to have met with Sarah and Rebecca. It was a great experience and I was glad to be able to share it with Rachel.

From left to right: Sarah Storey (Minister Counsellor Congressional Affairs Australian Embassy), Paul and Jennifer Stearns (Parents to Rachel), Rachel Stearns (JDRF US delegate), Teagan Hodges (Australian Delegate), Bec Allen (Public and Cultural Affairs Manager Australian Embassy), Sonia Hodges (Mum to Teagan), Stefanie Sonico ( JDRF US Australian Delegate support)

Sessions at Children’s Congress

JDRF Children’s Congress brings 165 passionate advocates together in D.C. to share their stories of living with T1D and to make sure that the decision makers understand the importance of research. We were advocating for the Special Diabetes Program to be renewed and as I understand it’s one step closer to being funded by the American government. They were also advocating for the cost of insulin to be reduced so that it is affordable for the over 1 million people in America who live the day to day struggle with type 1 diabetes.

One of the events included meeting the T1D role models. They were actors and sports stars. They talked to us about their lives with T1D and how they manage their busy lifestyles while also having to manage their blood sugars. I was excited to be chosen to ask Fiona Wylde, who is a champion paddle boarder, how she manages her blood sugar while she’s competing and how she manages her T1D while having such a busy lifestyle. She explained that she keeps sugar in her water proof pouch on her at all times during competitions and while travelling for competitions she monitors her blood sugar through her continuous glucose monitor. As a fan of ‘Wizards of Waverley Place’ when I was younger, it was cool to also meet Jennifer Stone who played Harper!

At the H.O.M.E. event we got to listen to speakers such an FBI agent, a scientist who works for NASA, a Police Officer and more professional sports stars. They shared with us how they reached their end goal while living with T1D. I was very impressed speaking to Caroline Marshall, the FBI Agent. She was one of the first ever to reach her position while living with T1D. Listening to her talk was inspiring.

A Day at Capitol Hill

The pinnacle of Children’s Congress was a day at Capitol Hill where all the delegates got to share with decision makers their stories about living with type 1 diabetes. We also attended a Senate Hearing about the Special Diabetes Program. Whilst sitting through the Senate Hearing I felt lucky to be there listening to Aaron Kowalski – CEO & President of JDRF, testify. Listening to him made me realise just how many great things are happening in the research space. The future looks very promising for me and everyone else living with T1D. The highlight for me was meeting and hearing Victor Garber, a famous actor, testifying at the Hearing. Victor has lived with T1D for over 60 years and the passion he has is very admirable.

Capitol is much bigger than I imagined it to be. The architecture is beautiful, everything is just so big! It was a real honour to be able to attend Rachel’s meetings with both Senators of Arizona. One of our meetings was in the President’s room, the décor of the room is very extravagant. After undergoing another security check, I got to go on an underground train that takes you between different buildings within Capitol Hill.

I also had some funny moments, one of which was convincing people that there are no kangaroos in my backyard and that we don’t get eaten alive by spiders. My accent (who knew I had one!) was recognised everywhere I went.

Being chosen as the Australian representative for JDRF Children’s Congress was a great honour, I felt extremely lucky and excited to be able to go to D.C. and advocate alongside Rachel and the other 163 kids who share my passion, understanding that Research Holds the Key. I plan to use my experience in Washington to further my advocacy work here in Australia and share with more people why I won’t rest until we have a cure for type 1 diabetes.

I’d like to thank Mike, Suz and Mel for giving me this incredible opportunity. It was a hot, busy but memorable trip that I will never forget.”

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a JDRF Advocate and what that entails, click here.

To read Teagan’s thoughts when she found out she would be representing Australia at Children’s Congress 2019, click here.

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