Mary's most important work:
for kids with diabetes.
These kids were all delegates to the
2001 JDRF Children's Congress
Mary Tyler Moore is a show-business legend. She is also dedicated to curing diabetes through research, through her work with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International. Here, she reflects on the success of JDRF's first Children's Congress, in 1999.
Q. What outcome did you foresee for JDRF's first Children's Congress—and did it meet your expectations?
When I first heard about Children's Congress and was asked to serve as chairman along with the Silvestri family, I thought of it as a wonderful opportunity for JDRF to gain greater visibility and also as a unique way to present JDRF's case to government representatives. But I was unprepared for the enormous impact this event had: on congressional representatives, members of the present administration, the public—and on me!
I've worked with young people who have diabetes before this, doing public service announcements and photo shoots with them. I call them "my heroes" because of their amazing attitude. But to see 100 determined youngsters over the course of a weekend in a united effort, and to watch them with public officials and in testimony, was an experience that exceeded any of my expectations.
Q. Are there any personal stories, any children whose activities at Conference especially touched you at the Children's Congress?
All the youngsters were darling, and I got to be with each of them in the individual delegate photo sessions and all the activities throughout the Congress. Perhaps the most emotional part of the weekend for me was the children's testimony at the hearing, where four youngsters expressed their feelings about diabetes—their fears, their hopes and dreams.
Some of my favorite stories? I recall Mollie Singer's testimony vividly, when she said, "Finding the cure for diabetes is all I think about every hour of every day. I try to be brave but sometimes I get very sad and cry myself to sleep. I dream of what it will be like when I take my last shot of insulin and no longer have to poke my fingers."
And Stockton Morris spoke movingly when he said, "It will be awesome to find a cure. Any money that can be given for research will make the cure come sooner. I really don't want to have complications with my eyes, heart or kidneys. When a cure comes, I want to thank JDRF researchers, scientists and doctors."
Q. Do you think the fact that children were the focal point has helped bring such an overwhelming result and momentum?
I most definitely feel that the "army of children" made the difference in the responses to this event—in government, the media and the public. The idea for Children's Congress—having the kids "tell it like it is"—did make legislators and the media take notice, and drew a great deal of attention to diabetes and the urgent need for a cure.
I've always supported and encouraged government advocacy as a most effective way to increase funding for diabetes research. Adults testify frequently and movingly, and that's newsworthy, especially when it involves prominent people. How much more so when the speakers are the youngsters who are most directly involved!
What a wonderful lesson for kids to learn about the power they can have, and how great to have their families share the experience and support their children!
Q. Do you have any plans for participating in the Promise to Remember Me Campaign, or the next Children's Congress?
I look forward to being a part of both the Promise to Remember Me Campaign and the next Children's Congress! I will surely do what I can to make both these programs as effective and spectacular as the first Children's Congress was.