Nick Jonas Leads Diabetic Children to the Hill
Singer-songwriter Nick Jonas — one of the heartthrobs of the Jonas Brothers — used his vocals for more than song this year.
In June, the 17-year-old testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
For Jonas, who has Type 1 diabetes, it’s personal.
“I was just happy to be able to share my story and hope to inspire others to do the same,” Jonas told POLITICO about his day on the Hill.
The message was heard by the elected officials but also by 150 members of JDRF’s Children’s Congress. The members, who travel biannually to the Capitol to meet with their representatives and senators, range in age from 4 to 17 and represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Jonas helped transform his fellow diabetics into a motivated group of grass-roots activists who sat down to talk with their representatives on the Hill, according to JDRF officials. “What we saw that day was a confidence in these kids that I have never seen before,” said Larry Soler, executive vice president for government relations at JDRF.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) worked with JDRF’s Children’s Congress for her fifth time this year and noticed the impact Jonas had.
“Having special guest witnesses, such as Nick Jonas, actress Mary Tyler Moore and boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard helps draw media attention to this serious illness,” said Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. “But — and this is especially the case with Nick Jonas — they are great role models for children who live with Type 1 diabetes. Nick was gracious enough to spend time talking to the young delegates and showing them that it is possible to lead a healthy, productive life while living with this disease.”
Jonas met with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Since his visit to the Hill, more than 170 members have been in contact with JDRF to help it gather co-sponsors for a House bill, the first step to renew the legislation at a funding level of $200 million annually.
“Getting key members of Congress involved is crucial to making big things happen for diabetics around the world,” Jonas acknowledged.
Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), co-chairman of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, is one of those key members.
“I am pleased to lead the effort with colleagues in the Diabetes and Native American Cauci to renew the Special Diabetes Program for five years,” Castle told POLITICO, adding he is “committed to supporting legislative activities that would improve diabetes research, education and treatment.”
Collins, who was critical in extending the original legislation, is hopeful.
“This year’s hearing will help us to generate even more support to extend this important program far into the future,” she said.
Jonas traveled back to Washington again in August for the issue. He appeared at the National Press Club as an ambassador for Bayer Diabetes Care, a program that promotes management of the condition with the company’s products.
And the musician, who has said one of his dreams is to be president, isn’t done with Washington.
“I hope to come back once again to help raise awareness,” he said. “What is important is that we were able to raise awareness and hopefully in the new year we will be able to see continued progress.”