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How I lobbied for diabetes research

I am an insulin diabetic. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 7 years old. Over the six years I have had this disease, I have learned how to better manage my diabetes and health. From the start, I have gone to a kids' support group at Winthrop University Hospital. The group meets almost every month, and I have lots of fun with other diabetics. We learn a great deal from one another as well as from guest speakers. This support group has helped me make friends and realize that I am not alone in this fight.

I've also become very interested in raising money for a global organization, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). This organization does many things and plans many events to raise money for research toward a cure for diabetes. I have participated in many of its walks as part of my fundraising activities. Over the years, I have raised more than $20,000 from walks and lemonade stands and bake sales.

Our next walk is scheduled for Oct. 26, at Eisenhower Park. Look for my team, Melissa's HOPE for a Cure. All donations go directly to JDRF.

In July, I attended the foundation's Children's Congress 2013 in Washington, D.C. Every two years, 160 delegates are chosen out of 1,500 applicants to go to this event. Attending Children's Congress has been life-changing and something I will always remember.

During the three-day event, we met with our representatives and senators to explain the importance of their support to continue funding for the Special Diabetes Program. This program provides $150 million for research to find improvements for managing life with type 1 diabetes and ultimately to find a cure for this dreadful disease. We were able to meet celebrities with diabetes, share our stories and make lots of friends. We sang the campaign song, "Promise to Remember Me," with "American Idol" runner-up Crystal Bowersox, who also has type 1 diabetes.

The highlights for me were meeting Vice President Joe Biden, a private tour of the Capitol and riding the "secret" subway cars under the Capitol. But listening to the moving and compelling testimony during the congressional hearings was most important and inspiring.

We need the Special Diabetes Program to be funded. The diabetes foundation and the National Institutes of Health will not be able to continue their research without the funds from the program.

I came home with a new sense of hope that a cure will be found in my lifetime. I sure hope so, because this is a hard disease to live with and manage. To find out more, visit the website: jdrf.org

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