My earliest experience with diabetes was in 2003, when my younger brother Aiden was diagnosed with type 1 at 14 months old. I never would have believed my life would come to the same fate a year and a half later.
On April 11, 2004, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10 years old.
For my family and I, the fight to Stop Diabetes® was more than a movement—it was a mission.
My journey as a Diabetes Advocate began in 2008, when I became a part of the teen advocacy program at my local American Diabetes Association (Association) office (I am from Kent, Wash., near Seattle). Since then, I have participated in events like the American Diabetes Association EXPO and Family Retreat as a teen volunteer as well as attended Diabetes Day at the Washington State Capitol for the past five years. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of my state senators and representatives to speak with them about issues concerning the Association and our mission.
I’ve also helped raise awareness and funds in my community since grade school through school-wide activities. Recently, I hosted a “Stop Diabetes” fundraiser at my high school where students gave donations to the Association in exchange for the privilege of wearing jeans for a day.
I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering at many local Association family events. I’m very fond of my chapter. I have met some really fantastic people, creating friendships that I know will last a lifetime.
As the Association’s 2013 National Youth Advocate, I will continue to meet with elected officials, urging them to increase funding for diabetes research and prevention to end this disease once and for all. I will also travel and speak nationwide about the Association’s Safe at School campaign, a program very important to me. In terms of diabetes care, I’ve been blessed with a very understanding and willing-to-learn staff at both my middle school and high school—but I also know what it’s like to not have the resources needed to properly care for my diabetes at school. Ensuring that all kids with diabetes have the accessibility and resources essential for our well being at school is extremely important to me.
I have lived with type 1 diabetes for more than eight years, and for more than eight years I have experienced the woes and efforts needed to successfully live a life with diabetes. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of diabetes. The future of diabetes care and prevention are crucial to improving the overall health of Americans.
I am eager to begin this journey with all of you and the Association this year. I hope I can inspire both children and adults to join me in the crucial movement to Stop Diabetes. Want to get started? Become a Diabetes Advocate right now!
As Walt Disney once said, “If you believe in something, believe in it all the way.”
Heather Berg, age 18
2013 National Youth Advocate
American Diabetes Association