School woes and school crushes, true friends and true frenemies, demanding teachers and demanding parents. These are all topics that loop in a teenage girl’s mind. Fourteen-year-old Cerriah Delgado and her 12-year-old sister Alexis are no exception. They still gush about Disney, sing, dance and worry about what to wear – except this time, they’re worrying about what to wear to meet the President of the United States and members of Congress.
Cerriah and Alexis were selected from among 1,500 applicants to represent Florida at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Children’s Congress in July. The Children’s Congress is the largest event of its kind, held to gain support for finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. It gives young delegates across the nation the opportunity to meet government leaders in Washington, D.C., and give a familiar face to a disease that affects 3 million children and adults in the United States.
“I want them to know that a lot of kids – not just in America; all over the world – have diabetes,” Alexis said. “We all want to find a cure. We all want to live for as long as we can.”
Cerriah was 3 years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin. Alexis was diagnosed at age 4 . Their father, David Delgado, who is very athletic, was diagnosed with Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes in his late 20s. But those are not all the branches the bad seed has affected on the Delgado family tree. Delgado’s twin brother, eldest brother, youngest brother and father have also been diagnosed with diabetes.
“The great thing about the Children’s Congress is that it isn’t a political issue,” David Delgado said. “It’s a cross-spectrum of ages, beliefs and genders. It’s about families and human beings.”
Diabetes is the single most costly chronic disease, according to the JDRF. Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and as many as 3 million Americans have type 1. Diabetes is often misconstrued as a disease only among the overweight. The Delgado sisters are eager to dispel these assumptions and open people’s eyes to the often invisible, chronic epidemic. Together, they have spent more than 2,000 hours volunteering at JDRF events such as its annual Walk for a Cure.
“From the moment I was diagnosed, we knew there was hope,” Cerriah said. “That’s why we fight so hard. Because we know one day there’s going to be a cure, and we’re going to find it.”