It was a big room, full of U.S. Senators and other intimidating people, but Patrick Gould, 17, knew he needed to be there. Plus, he was surrounded by his family and other well-wishers who were on his side.
He leaned into the microphone and began his testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Patrick said afterward of testifying before the committee over the summer. “But it was also important because I had a very important message to tell them.”
Patrick and his mother, Ellen Gould had journeyed to Washington D.C. to attend the sixth annual JDRF Children’s Congress taking place in the nation’s capital. Along with three of his younger siblings, Patrick, who has Type I diabetes, had been chosen as a delegate to the Children’s Congress.
But Patrick and Ellen also received another honor that was a golden opportunity for people concerned about diabetes: they were invited to speak before a Senate committee and implore Congress to renew funding for diabetes research programs.
“It was very exciting,” Ellen said. “I was very nervous, but I think it went well.”
Ellen and Patrick were seated at a table in front of a big semi-circular table full of Senators. Around the room were other children there to represent the JDRF Children’s Congress, as well as the rest of the Gould family.
“I never thought of myself as a lobbyist, but I guess for that week, I was,” Ellen said. “We all were.”
Sen. Susan Collins led most of the proceedings, “and she was clearly moved by the testimonies, so it was really a very neat experience, to see how the whole legislative process works,” Ellen said.
Briefly after the proceeding, she met some of the Tennessee lawmakers, but she plans to continue talking with them in more detail now that she’s back in Nashville.
Patrick noted that his family is passionate about the cause they are advocating for—and that’s why they’re so active in promoting it.
“I understand that the only way that diabetes will be cured is if we get the money to fund the research to find a cure. It’s not just going to fall out of the sky,” he said. “We’ve got to be proactive and make sure we’re raising the money to fund the research.”
And indeed the whole Gould family is affected by diabetes. Dave and Ellen Gould have eight children, and four of them have diabetes. Patrick was the first one diagnosed in 2004. Sam, 12, Sarah, 10 and Oliver, 5, all have Type I diabetes, too. The other four children—Andrew, 15, Nicholas, 14, Annie, 4, and Maggie, 2—have not been diagnosed.
Just by virtue of being a family, they all have become intimately acquainted with the ins and outs of diabetes, even the children who don’t have it. For example, Andrew is sometimes called upon to babysit his younger siblings, and he has to know how to count carbs and help the younger ones. Oliver sometimes needs an older brother to give him a shot.
Not only that, but the whole family is enrolled in an international diabetes study called TrialNet. The Vanderbilt Eskind Diabetes Clinic is a site for the study, which looks at the causes and possible treatments for diabetes. Ellen said that it is important to the family to participate because the results could potentially affect so many people, beyond their family.
“It would help so many people,” she said. “It is just a matter of time.”
The older children are regular campers each summer at the Tennessee Camp for Diabetic Children. And Dave Gould recently began a two-year term as president of the board of the local branch of JDRF, so you can count on finding the Gould family being involved.
“I’m going to fight as long as I can, for as long as it takes,” Ellen vowed.