Bernardsville Student Earns Trip to JDRF 2017 Children's Congress

Jack Morais of Bernardsville meets with JDRF ambassador Cory Vaughn. Vaughn is a professional baseball player - a perfect T1D role model for Jack, a budding baseball player! Credits: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Delegates Andy Norris, Holden Riefenstahl, Sen. Menendez, Jack Morais, Ian McGough, Jamie with Senator Robert Menendez to advocate for the renewal of the Special Diabetes Program. Credits: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Isa Rosa, age 8, chats with Senator Susan Collins after the JDRF Children's Congress Senate hearing. Collins chaired the July 26 Senate hearing and is the co-chair of the Senate Diabetes Caucus. Credits: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Isa Rosa,age 8, meets T1D role model and JDRF ambassador Brec Bassinger.. Bassinger, best known for her starring role as on Nickelodeon's Bella and the Bulldogs, was diagnosed with T1D at 8 years old. Credits: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

BERNARDSVILLE NJ — Jack Morais, age 11 of Bernardsville was one of five New Jersey students who were chosen as delegates to the JDRF 2017 Childrens Congress in Washington DC from July 24 through 26.  Jack is a student at the Far Hills Country Day School.

Jack was joined by fellow New Jersey delegates Isa Rosa, of West Caldwell, Ian McGough of Holmdel, Andy Norris of Glen Ridge and Holden Riefenstahl of Mullica Hill.  The delegates have returned from the once-in-a-lifetime experience in the nation’s capital, where they joined nearly 160 children, ages 4 to 17, as delegates to the congress.  JDRF Children’s Congress is the largest grassroots event supporting type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Ian, Jack and Isa were chosen by their local JDRF chapter to represent New Jersey at this biennial event, alongside delegates representing all 50 states, and JDRF’s six international affiliate countries.

In addition to meeting kids from across the country, the delegates spoke with celebrity role models living with T1D such as professional baseball player, Corey Vaughn, and actress Brec Bassinger. They lobbied Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker as well as Congressmen Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Christopher Smith (NJ-4) and Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2) to urge continued federal government support for T1D research that aims to reduce the burden of the disease and contribute to a cure.

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The event culminated with a Congressional Committee hearing on July 26, which included testimony from select delegates as well as House of Cards actor Paul Sparks.

“In my own lifetime, personally, I have seen and I have benefitted from [T1D research] advances discovered in our labs and clinical trials,” said Sparks, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 28.

These personal testimonies drew attention to the daily struggles of those living with T1D and the need for continued research funding and support, such as renewal of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP).

“Last week, Ian, Jack and Isa proved that little voices can lead to big change. These kids are so brave to speak up for millions of people affected by type 1 diabetes,” says Jess Backofen, executive director for JDRF New Jersey Metro & Rockland County Chapter – where an estimated 30,000 children and adults currently live with T1D.  

“We’ve seen a 21% increase in the number of youth with T1D between 2001 and 2009.  Our New Jersey delegates, along with other advocates from across the metro area, are making a tremendous impact to ensure a healthy future for everyone affected by type 1 diabetes.”     

JDRF Children’s Congress was inspired by (then) eight-year-old Tommy Solo from Massachusetts, in 1999. He overheard adult JDRF volunteers talking about going to Washington, D.C. to talk to Congress and thought it was important that children go, too, and make their voices heard.  JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. 

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