By MORGAN MANNS
For nearly 10 years, a Fostoria teen has been sharing the story of her journey with type I diabetes locally.
Diagnosed with the autoimmune disease at the age of 8, Brooklyn Ware, now 17, has the opportunity to take her awareness efforts to the national level when she travels to Washington, D.C. this July for the 2017 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Children’s Congress.
“I honestly don’t remember a day without diabetes,” Ware said. “It gives me a challenge to deal with every day. My life now is the only life I’ve ever known so I feel unique in my own way. I’m excited to share my story with more people.”
Every two years, more than 150 children living with type I diabetes gather in the country’s capital to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government, according to JDRF’s website. The children, ages 4-17, are given the opportunity to help members of Congress understand what life with diabetes is like. Speaking on behalf of the millions of people living with type I diabetes and their loved ones, these kids present their reasons as to why research to fund life-changing therapies and find a cure is critical.
The first JDRF Children’s Congress took place in 1999 after a nine-year-old Massachusetts boy asked his mother why children couldn’t go to Washington to tell their representatives about what it’s like to have type I diabetes. According to the website, more than 1,000 kids with the disease have served as delegates, securing continued government funding of diabetes research.
Since her diagnosis in 2008, Ware has applied to attend Children’s Congress every year it has been hosted. Finally selected this year, she is one of 200 delegates chosen out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and one of four delegates from Ohio.
“When I was first diagnosed, my nurse told me to stay tough,” she said. “Since that day, I’ve never stopped being tough and fighting for my cure.”
To apply for Children’s Congress, she had to write a 5-page essay and explain why she thought she should be selected.
While at the event, slated July 24-27, she will have the opportunity to attend meetings with Congress, speak with Ohio state representatives and meet other children with type I diabetes.
Three of the 200 students will also have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with members of Congress during the event.
To try for the opportunity, Ware had to complete three assignments: create a video no longer than 2 minutes; put together three scrapbooks; and write three letters to Congress.
For her video, she selected to answer a question regarding any negative or hurtful behavior she experienced toward her diabetes in school or in society. In the short clip, she provides an example of a basketball coach not playing her during games. When she confronted him about it, he told her he “couldn’t waste his timeouts” on her if she passed out on the court from her diabetes.
“This, however, made me stronger and made me strive to show him that I was just like the other kids and shouldn’t be benched for having diabetes,” she said in the video.
She continues to explain her diagnosis empowers her “to be stronger and to teach people knowledge of diabetes and to never stop fighting for what I know is right.”
The video can be found online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-pCQHgZrfE&sns=em.
In her scrapbooks, Ware was required to include her name, how long she had been diagnosed and where she was from, filling in the rest with anything she wanted. She chose to use pictures and information to highlight her life before and after her diagnosis, experiences she’s had with diabetes, how she’s advocated for diabetes awareness, how she manages her diabetes, her JDRF team and her hobbies and extracurricular activities.
Meanwhile, her letters had to explain why she should be chosen to speak with Congress members on why they should continue funding type I diabetes research and technology.
Based on their videos, scrapbooks and letters, three of the 200 students will be selected in the weeks before the event.
If selected to speak in front of Congress, Ware said she would talk to them about the importance of Special Diabetes Programs (SDP) and why a bill should be passed to continue the funding of research and technology for type I diabetes.
SDP were renewed as part of a larger bill in April 2015 and are up for renewal again this year, according to the website. The program for type I diabetes provides research into stopping the autoimmune attacks at the core of type I, studying the regeneration of beta cells and more.
“I felt like it would be a really good experience and I wanted to be that voice to tell them we need that,” Ware said, explaining it covers not only research but technology and insurance needed by families like hers.
“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” her mother, Becky Ware, added. “She was sick for a long time before we found her diabetes but God saved her for a reason and this is part of it.”