This week, the 15th annual Friends for Life: International Children with Diabetes Conference kicked off in Orlando, Fla. Children and their families from across the country and the globe joined together to experience a week of inspiration and information about the most up-to-date diabetes trends and care— and of course, make friends for life!
The American Diabetes Association’s own Crystal Jackson is in Orlando to present on the Safe at School campaign, along with two other special guests. NASCAR driver and spokesperson for the Association’s Drive to Stop DiabetesSM campaign presented by Lilly Diabetes, Ryan Reed, and the Association’s 2014 National Youth Advocate, Basma Abdellaoui, will share their personal experiences and offer support and friendship to the many children looking for guidance and assurance on navigating life with diabetes.
Let’s hear from our young role models…
This is my first time at Friends for Life, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to interact with this special community. Many of the children at this conference have only known a life with diabetes, while others have just recently been diagnosed and are looking for support and friendship from people who understand what they are going through.
I can relate to these kids. When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17, the only life I knew was one free of the daily burdens of this disease. But with a positive attitude and hard work, I haven’t let diabetes determine the course my life will take. Instead, with the help of my family, doctors and the team at Roush Fenway, I’ve taken control of my diabetes and continue to pursue and live my dream of being a professional NASCAR driver.
I’ve used my career in the spotlight to turn my passion for diabetes awareness into action, by starting Ryan’s Mission, a nonprofit organization that helps me make an impact on the lives of others affected by this disease. I’ve also teamed up with the American Diabetes Association and Lilly Diabetes to support the Drive to Stop DiabetesSM campaign. And since April 2013, I’ve been racing the official No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang at NASCAR racetracks across the country, to raise awareness and promote educational resources to our fans!
Meeting with the kids this week at Friends for Life is going to be an experience I know I won’t forget. I hope I can be a positive role model for children and all people living with diabetes. I want to let them know there may be challenges, but don’t give up. Diabetes can’t stop us from realizing our dreams.
I’m thrilled to be here in Orlando for my first Friends for Life Conference! Being around this amazing group of young children and teens, all living with diabetes, reminds me of how important my work as the American Diabetes Association’s National Youth Advocate really is!
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 3 years old, and I knew from a young age I wanted to be active in the diabetes community and build friendships with others who shared the same experiences and struggles that I had. At age 5, I attended my first American Diabetes Association camp in San Diego, and I continue to attend the same camp as a teen staff member, mentoring and providing guidance to children with diabetes.
After I was diagnosed and attended camp, I realized that I didn’t want diabetes to stop me from pursuing my dream of helping people and achieving anything I put my mind to. As I got older, I knew that diabetes would open doors for me to do more for other people living with the disease. And as National Youth Advocate for 2014, that is exactly what I drive to achieve: to show kids, teens and even adults that diabetes can’t stop us from anything.
This week, I hope to accomplish a few things. First and foremost, I want to use my voice as the National Youth Advocate to show my peers, and especially the younger children at the conference, that diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back. Everyone can use their personal experience to advocate for themselves and all people living with diabetes! I also hope to take in each and every experience at the conference, to learn about new technology and medical advancements, and to have important conversations with my peers and mentors. I can’t wait to see everyone who has been following me since the start of my journey, to talk to them and listen to their stories, and share my own experiences.
We are all joining together in the fight to make living with diabetes more manageable, until we can finally Stop Diabetes®!