Rock Island student advocates for diabetes funding on Capitol Hill

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) – Just back from our nation’s capital, a Rock Island junior high student is hoping her story will help secure funding for research making a difference in her daily life.

“I can still do the same things as everybody else I just have to approach it a little differently,” said Grace Gustafson.

She has been living with Type 1 diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, for the past six years.

“I’ve had diabetes since I was seven years old.”

The Washington Junior High student says she does not let it hold her back.

“I play volleyball and do some tumbling and gymnastics,” she said.

She also participates in band and is a straight A student.

This summer she shared her story with our nation’s leaders.

“I was elected to be an advocate for JDRF [Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation] in Washington D.C. and speak on the hill about fundraising for Type 1 diabetes,” Gustafson said.

The Rock Island teen was selected to be the ambassador for JDRF’s Eastern Iowa chapter and share how research has made a difference in her life and the lives of many others.

“The SDP [Special Diabetes Program] had funded the continuous glucose monitor, so we pointed out how much that had helped along with insulin pumps and insulin in general,” she said.

The Special Diabetes Program is government funds used for diabetes research. Money set to expire in September.

“JDRF is the largest non-governmental funder of Type 1 diabetes,” said JDRF Developmental Coordinator Erin Williams. “Above us, it's the governmental funding that really makes a big impact on these advances that we're trying to make.”

Gustafson was one of more than 100 young people who went to capitol hill to not only ask for the program to be refunded but extend it from a vote every two years, to every three.

“We would just share stories and tell them about different advances SDP has funded that we now have proof of because of their help with the money,” Gustafson said.

SDP provides $150 million a year for diabetes research. Congress has a history of bipartisan support for this program. It was last passed in 2015.