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My Greatest Supporters in the Senate

by Kelly DeSola

When then 10-year-old  Carson Magee attended JDRF Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. in July of 2013, he had no idea that he would connect with his greatest supporters in the Senate. Carson says of the experience, “When I got there I made friends pretty quickly. And I really liked knowing that I was surrounded by other diabetics like me—and feeling like I was helping to make a difference.”

Over the course of JDRF Children’s Congress, Carson met with many influential people—including Sens. James Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho. The Senators were impressed by Carson’s passion for advocating for the Special Diabetes Program (SDP). In fact, after separate meetings, both Senators agreed to sign letters of support for the SDP.

A small gesture can mean a lot…Already a T1D advocacy champion before attending Children’s Congress, Carson led his “Carson’s Cruisers” JDRF One Walk® team, took part in his local JDRF outreach meetings, and started a blog to encourage other  kids to get involved.  He says that his time in D.C. made him decide to make it a priority to reach out to his Senators whenever they were near his hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

In March 2014, Carson traveled to Boise to take part in Invent Idaho Day. He arranged a meeting at Sen. Risch’s office in the state capital to show him his blood-sugar-testing watch that won second place and give him a framed photo collage from Children’s Congress to thank him for his support.

A couple of weeks later, Sen. Risch sent Carson a U.S. flag that had been flown over Capitol Hill to honor all of his important advocacy work. The Senator also invited Carson and his mother to attend a Lincoln Day Dinner as his guests, where Carson was introduced to Gov. “Butch” Otter. That same year, he convinced the Governor to proclaim the second Monday in each February as Type 1 Diabetes Awareness day.

“With nearly 200,000 young people in the United States impacted by type 1 diabetes, we need more individuals like Carson to help advance solutions that will end this disease. Much medical progress has been made, but there is, without a doubt, more to be done. I have been proud to work with both Carson and JDRF in this fight.” –Senator Risch

It doesn’t hurt to ask…

In October 2014, Senator Crapo, a member of the Senate Diabetes Caucus, held a Town Hall in Coeur d’Alene. Carson thanked the Senator for supporting the SDP and discussed the importance of passing the Medicare CGM Access Act. The Senator thanked Carson for bringing the issue to his attention. Carson says, “Don’t be afraid to go meet with your Senator if they’re in town. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Whatever you tell them could be information they may not know yet.”

The relationship between the two has continued to grow, and this past fall, Carson helped Sen. Crapo lead a JDRF Promise to Remember Me meeting about the importance of continued Federal funding  for T1D research . After the meeting, the Senator praised Carson’s dedicated to the cause—and included a quote from Carson—on his social media pages.

“Carson has been a steadfast advocate for JDRF and for continued research and understanding about diabetes.  His leadership and energy at such a young age and over many years is an example for others. I thank him for the time he has taken to work with my staff and me about an issue that personally affects him and so many other young Idahoans.”–Senator Crapo

Anyone can be a T1D advocate…

When other kids with T1D started asking Carson how they could help make a difference too, he created his own JDRF Kids Advocacy Club. The group writes letters asking their Representatives to support funding for the SDP and other JDRF Advocacy priorities, makes posters and videos showing their thanks,  and brings their parents to JDRF Promise to Remember Me meetings.

Carson says that personal touches can really resonate with your Representatives. “The most important thing is to not sit around thinking someone else will advocate.  Call your Congressional delegation, show up at meetings, and write letters thanking them for their support. Tell your story and let them know you are doing your part to raise money for a cure.”