Diabetes Forecast

National Youth Advocate Madison Dodge

The Delaware teenager ends a year of diabetes activism


Madison Dodge has been a vocal supporter of people with diabetes since her type 1 diagnosis as a kindergartner. But the teenager says her year as the American Diabetes Association's National Youth Advocate has taught her much about the strength of the diabetes community.

Throughout 2011, Madi has met with lawmakers, families, volunteers, and other young people with diabetes, sharing her personal story and the work that the Association does, particularly regarding kids and the Safe at School campaign. "While I've always been a fund-raiser for the ADA . . . there's nothing more powerful than a huge community of dedicated advocates," she says. "After meeting so many people at Call to Congress and at the Community Volunteer Leadership Conference, there are so many people who are passionate about stopping diabetes just like I am. It's such a powerful message."

It's a message she wants to share with the world. Madi, 16, of Milford, Del., completes her year as National Youth Advocate this month. She has gone from Washington, D.C., to San Diego and points in between to talk with other people with diabetes and educate them, their families, and their elected representatives. She has lobbied for fair treatment of children with diabetes at school as well as backed more funding of diabetes research, two areas in which she has a direct interest.

During Madi's stint as National Youth Advocate, ADA officials have been impressed with her work in talking with other kids and legislators alike. "From the halls of Congress to Association camps and beyond, Madi has done a tremendous job as our National Youth Advocate," says Lecia Imbery, managing director of government affairs and advocacy. John W. Griffin, Jr., the Association's chair of the board, agrees: "Madi is relentless in her passion for the Stop Diabetes movement," he says. "She has brought her positive message to children and adults all around the country, and we are proud of her work."

Madi says it was always her goal to be a diabetes advocate: At the age of 5, she formed her first Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes fund-raising team. Every year, her involvement in the ADA has grown. Now, as the National Youth Advocate, she has balanced all that with her studies as an 11th-grader, driver's education (she got her license in July), school and statewide choruses, drama club, and her health. In addition to diabetes, Madi copes with eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (EGID) and ulcerative colitis, which are both autoimmune diseases, like type 1.

Coping with not just one but three diseases makes finding a cure for diabetes even more important to Madi. More research is done on diabetes than on EGID or ulcerative colitis, which are rarer conditions. Once a cure is found for one autoimmune disease, she says, that could open the door to progress on others. In the meantime, she lives her life day to day, managing her health as best she can while accomplishing remarkable things. "As long as you know your own body . . . you'll be able to take care of yourself," says Wendy Dodge, Madi's mother. "[People with autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes,] are great at living in the moment."

But Madi Dodge also looks toward the future and the advocacy work she'll be able to do after her year winds down and she returns to life as a normal but highly motivated teen. She says she'll continue to work to promote the ADA's causes. She believes the impact she's had on other people as National Youth Advocate will be felt after her term is over—and she hopes to continue providing advice and hope to others. "There have been parents and kids that I've talked to this summer that have said, 'We're scared about sending our kids to school because we know that it's not safe for them.' I've been able to talk to them about what they can be doing," she says. "You could just tell that it meant so much to them, to know that now they have the knowledge of what they can do to help their child."

To read Madi Dodge's blog or learn how you could become the next National Youth Advocate, visit diabetes.org/nya.



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