In 2011, nine-year-old Erick Leavitt and his family were driving home from Utah when something peculiar took place: They had to pull over six times to let the restless fourth grader use the bathroom, which is unusual for a seemingly healthy boy. Confused, Erick’s mom, Michelle Leavitt, assumed he had a bladder infection and took him to the doctor when they returned to Las Vegas. After multiple blood tests, Erick was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes—the first in his family to receive the diagnosis.
That day in the hospital was hectic. His mother and father were distraught as Erick was lying in the hospital bed, both of them anxiously awaiting the results.
Erick was unfazed. “I just wanted doughnuts,” he says with a grin.
“I did promise him doughnuts when he got out of the hospital,” says Michelle, who on the other hand was not grinning.
This was just the beginning of the lifestyle change that was about to happen to Erick and his loved ones.
Three years later, his younger sister Oaklie, then 10 years old, took a blood-sugar test with her brother’s meter. A few seconds later the meter beeped: Her blood sugar was almost triple the recommended level. A T1D diagnosis followed.
This is how the family came to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Starting with a team—Two Against 1—that participates in the JDRF One Walk to raise money for diabetes research, they’ve fundraised about $23,000 to date. The Leavitts also have been involved with other JDRF programs such as the Youth Ambassador Program, The Hope Gala and, now, on July 24-26 the 2017 Children’s Congress, which has sent hundreds of kids to Washington, D.C., to lobby for diabetes research funding since 1999.
“I want to spread the word about T1D,” Oaklie says about her opportunity to represent Nevada. “Whenever I go places with an insulin pump in my arm, people come up to me and ask what it is—and that gets tiring sometimes. If we spread the word more, not everyone has to do that.”
“I want to guilt-trip them,” Erick jokingly adds.
To prepare for the meeting with Children’s Congress, the kids trained with JDRF’s Speakers Bureau on how to speak and share their stories. They also prepared scrapbooks and a short video to present to the public.
Although the sightseeing and bragging rights are something the kids can cherish forever, they plan to continue to represent and advocate for JDRF and Children’s Congress long after returning from D.C.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for these kids to go out and talk about Type 1 diabetes and how it really affects them,” Michelle says. “It puts a face to the disease. That’s the first step. It’s not just some random thing that strangers have. It’s showing that we’re a family.”
To learn more about Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, visit jdrf.org/lv.