WOODBRIDGE, NJ — West Caldwell 8 year old Isa Rosa recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the nation’s capital, where she joined nearly 160 children, ages 4 to 17, as delegates to JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress.

JDRF Children’s Congress is the largest grassroots event supporting type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. Isa was chosen by her 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 (district 11), Leonard Lance (district 7), Christopher Smith (district 4) and Frank LoBiondo (district 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, 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).

Jess Backofen, executive director for JDRF New Jersey Metro & Rockland County Chapter—where an estimated 30,000 children and adults currently live with T1D—said Isa and her peers learned that “little voices can lead to big change” through this experience.

“These kids are so brave to speak up for millions of people affected by type 1 diabetes,” said Backofen. “We’ve seen a 21-percent 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.”

To learn more about JDRF Children’s Congress, visit http://cc.jdrf.org/.

For more information, about JDRF, visit jdrf.org or follow the organization on Twitter: @JDRF.