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Butler youth to speak about juvenile diabetes in Washington

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Caroline Simms, 13, of Butler, will be travelling to Washington D.C. in July to lobby for Special Diabetes Program funding. Caroline has Type I diabetes. She is here in her house Friday, June 28, 2013.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Caroline Simms, 13, of Butler will be travelling to Washington D.C. in July to lobby for Special Diabetes Program funding. Caroline has Type I diabetes. She is here at her home Friday, June 28, 2013.

Caroline Simms is going to Washington.

The 13-year-old girl from Butler will represent the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation from July 8 to 10 at the foundation's Children's Congress. She has Type 1 diabetes.

Caroline said she has done local fundraising and advocacy events for diabetes research, but the Children's Congress is her first step onto the national stage.

“I think that I knew that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance and that really made me want to do it more,” she said.

A seventh-grader at Butler Junior High School, she was selected from a field of more than 1,500 candidates to become a delegate.

The Children's Congress brings 150 children ages 4 to 17 from across the country to the Capitol to emphasize the importance of federal funding for Type 1 diabetes research, said Lara Daly, the foundation's development manager.

The children will attend a Senate hearing and give presentations to their local representatives, said Mary Simms, Caroline's mother. The point is to let elected officials know what it's like to live with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes.

“Sometimes, from the voices of children, it makes more of an impact,” she said.

Caroline's story is especially powerful because of she came close to dying before she was diagnosed, Simms said.

“We didn't have diabetes in our family … so it was never something I paid attention to,” Simms said, “Then one day our daughter had what we thought was the stomach flu, and then she went into a coma. ... And the next thing you know, she was within 45 minutes of dying of a disorder we didn't even know she had.”

Caroline was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh with diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition in which blood glucose levels are dangerously high. Her entire life changed at age 10, but her mother said she's dealt with it with maturity beyond her years.

“She's one of the brave ones,” Simms said.

Caroline said she's a social person, so she's most looking forward to meeting others with Type 1 diabetes who are committed to speaking out about the disorder.

“I think it's just going to be nice to be around all those people and get that feeling that I belong there,” she said.

“I'm excited to go meet all those people because they're in the same situation as me. And it just makes me smile that someone could be strong enough and actually get through all this, and go help change the world.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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