Local youngster headed to D.C. to lobby for T1 diabetes research funding

Brady Chappell

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

NAPLES — He may be just nine years old, but Brady Chappell has an important message he plans to share with lawmakers.

The Naples boy is headed to Washington, D.C., this July, where he will lobby to increase funding for Type 1 Diabetes research.

Brady was selected to serve as one of two Maine delegates to the biennial JDRF Children’s Congress.

JDRF is the leading global organization funding Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) research.

“Our strength lies in our exclusive focus and singular influence on the worldwide effort to end T1D,” according to the JDRF website.

Just last weekend, Brady was honored to be invited by U.S. Senator Susan Collins to attend the annual JDRF Gala in Manchester, N.H., where the N.H. and Maine delegates were introduced to the attendees. Brady was able to meet both Sen. Collins and Sen. Shaheen (N.H.), who were in attendance to receive awards from JDRF for their work on behalf of the T1D community. Brady was even able to sit next to Sen. Collins at dinner.

Both senators are co-chairwomen of the Senate Diabetes caucus, which was also founded by Sen. Collins.

Brady was diagnosed with T1D at the age of six. Brady — a very athletic, energetic and intelligent kid — was diagnosed with T1D around Valentine’s Day of 2014. He had been recovering from a long bout with an illness when, thankfully, his grandmother noticed he was going to the bathroom a lot.  He was also looking rather thin and was uncharacteristically lethargic. Just to be sure everything was okay, his parents — Tait and Jeanette Chappell — made an appointment with his doctor.

“Needless to say, we were blown away when the doctor took his blood sugar and said, ‘You need to take him to the hospital immediately…he has Type 1 Diabetes!’ What? Just like that? You don’t need to do more tests? This wasn’t something that was even on our radar as a possibility,” the Chappells said. “The doctors said that we were lucky and caught it relatively early before his blood sugar, at that point over 600, had gone even higher.”

While it was a startling diagnosis, the Chappells were happy for Brady that he was being taken care of and was finally feeling better. Although a bit scared, Brady took the news in stride and was resolved to learn all he could about T1D.

“The resilience of children is an amazing thing. Within two weeks, he was giving himself shots, taking his own blood sugar and counting carbs. He continues to amaze us!” the couple said.

T1D can feel relentless at times, with all the finger sticks and sleepless nights, managing lows. Anything that can help alleviate that feeling is a tremendous thing. Brady now uses a Dexcom CGM and loves using the Omnipod insulin pump. Both of these devices have benefited from previous JDRF funding and help to make his daily diabetes care easier to manage.

But, the Chappells believed they could do better!

Three years ago, they were very happy to join the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes and help to raise money to find a cure. They were overwhelmed when Brady’s Bunch raised over $20,000 in the first year. They were also very happy to sponsor a JDRF Kids Walk at Brady’s school, which raised an additional $5,000.

The next Brady’s Bunch fundraising effort is the JDRF One Walk 5K on Sunday, Sept. 17, starting at Thornton Academy in Saco. Check-in is at 10 a.m. with a start at 11 a.m. The goal is to raise $15,000. To make a donation to team Brady’s Bunch, go to www.jdrf.org website, under “events” go to One Walk, a box allows you to enter your zip code for a walk near you, select the “Saco” walk and you will find teams signed up for the event, click “Brady’s Bunch,” and make a donation.

When Brady grows up, he wants to be a professional baseball player or an engineer. He loves sports, especially baseball, football, basketball and skiing.

Although constantly tracking his blood sugar can be difficult, Brady says, “Diabetes doesn’t stop me from doing anything. I just always have to think about diabetes…I was sad when my doctor told me that unless we found a cure, I would have diabetes for the rest of my life. That made me want to find a cure.”

The JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress will take place on July 24–26 in Washington, D.C. Every two years, more than 150 children living with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) gather in Washington, D.C., to meet face-to-face with some of the top decision-makers in the U.S. government. The children, ages 4 to 17, represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The delegates in JDRF’s Children’s Congress enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help members of Congress understand what life with T1D is like and why research to fund life-changing therapies until a cure can be found is so critical. They speak up on behalf of the millions of people living with T1D and the families and friends who love them.

The JDRF Children’s Congress T1D advocacy program was inspired by a boy from Massachusetts named Tommy Solo. One day, at age nine, he asked his mother, “Why can’t kids go to Washington and tell their representatives about what it is like to have Type 1 Diabetes and let them know that we want scientists to find a cure?”

His mom and other JDRF volunteers agreed and, in 1999, the first-ever JDRF Children’s Congress took place in Washington, D.C.

Since then, nine successful Children’s Congresses have been held, one every other year, and more than 1,000 kids with T1D have served as delegates. JDRF Children’s Congress has been essential to securing continued government funding of T1D research and to raise awareness of the daily burden of Americans living with this serious autoimmune disease.

Delegates form lifelong friendships, meet T1D role models, develop leadership skills, and leave Children’s Congress empowered to use their voices for the change that will improve their lives and the lives of all people affected by T1D.

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