Summer vacation is in full swing and Independence Day is almost upon us, but for two South Carolina teens, the focus is on something much more important than taking a break.
Kate Hanchon and William Wimberly, both 14, will represent South Carolina at the JDRF 2019 Children’s Congress July 8-10 in Washington, D.C., speaking to the nation’s leaders on behalf of the millions of people living with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and their families and friends.
“It really feels like I’m making a difference,” Kate said. “Everyone will be there for the same reason: we want a cure.”
More than 160 children, all living with T1D, will serve as delegates at the 10th Children’s Congress. Ranging in age from 4 to 17, the kids will meet with members of Congress to show them what living with T1D is like and why the government should continue funding research. That research could lead to a cure and has already led to technology which has made life easier for William, Kate and millions of others.
“T1D is not preventable nor is it curable… yet. William and the millions of others with T1D live active normal lives but they require a lot more planning and preparation for their successes,” said Susie Wimberly, William’s mom, who will accompany him to D.C. “Honestly, I think this makes them overachievers!”
“It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to speak,” said Tim Hanchon, Kate’s dad and Children’s Congress companion. “We’re in an important stage of research and technological advances. The changes we’ve seen [in the nine years since Kate was diagnosed with T1D] have been really remarkable.”
Research, funded by Congress thanks at least in part to the work of past delegates in the roles Kate and William will play this summer, has recently led to advances like Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). The device tracks glucose levels constantly through a sensor, eliminating the need for pricking a finger with a needle to check levels as well as providing more accuracy.
“The CGM has definitely been a big help,” Kate said. “You can just look at your phone to check it.”
“CGM has been a godsend for us,” Tim Hanchon agreed. “It’s really allowed more freedom for Kate.”
People living with T1D are able to live the same lives as everyone else, but even with the latest technology, there are complications and will be until a cure is found.
I don’t think it has hindered his life at all but we just know it plays a major part of every day and every event,” Susie Wimberly said when asked about helping William live with T1D. “In the mornings everyday we discuss his schedule and how his diabetes might be affected. If he has a big test or a tennis match or if he is carpooling with a friend, we need to be organized and plan ahead. We discuss how he will need to adjust his insulin ratios accordingly, when and what to eat for a snack and who will have his ‘bag.’”
“It’s somewhat of a constant battle, and I think that wears on her at times,” Tim Hanchon said of Kate.
Misconceptions about T1D are common, including people confusing it with Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes). The mission of the Children’s Congress delegates is to inform people and to let them know the importance of continued funding for research.
“Being a Children’s Congress delegate makes me feel like I am actually doing something that will make a difference in finding a cure for T1D,” William said. “I hope to help a Congress vote for the renewal of the special diabetes program!”
More information on Children’s Congress, JDRF, and the battle to cure Type 1 is available at JDRF.org.