The Ross brothers sure do have a lot in common.
They both do karate, have Type 1 diabetes and advocate for those with the chronic condition. And they’ve both been to Washington, D.C., to share their advocacy work as part of Children’s Congress. Out of thousands of applicants, only 165 kids were invited this year.
Anthony, a 17-year-old Clark College student, attended Children’s Congress in 2017, and his brother Austin, a 13-year-old River HomeLink student, followed up with a visit earlier this week to advocate for the special diabetes program, which provides $150 million annually for Type 1 diabetes research at the National Institutes of Health.
If funding for the program isn’t renewed, it will expire in September. During his visit to Children’s Congress, Anthony advocated for the same program, which comes up for renewed funding every two years.
“I know what they’re dealing with,” Austin said of the people he represents. “I have the same thing. I know they want to find a cure. It’s a passion of mine.”
Anthony has been a guide for Austin since the younger boy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes about three years ago. Austin’s condition was initially discovered after his older brother’s diabetic alert dog, Gracie, kept pawing at Austin. Anthony was diagnosed at 3 years old, so Austin was already familiar with the disease.
“He already knew since he lived with me. It was a pretty easy transition,” Anthony said. “I was really sad when I found out because I didn’t want to have him deal with it.”
The brothers have utilized continuous glucose monitoring systems so that they only have to do blood checks a couple times a day, but their disease is still something they must be cognizant of at all times. Sometimes, they have to sit out during karate to avoid getting ill.
“They still do what they would do without it, but you have to plan,” their mother Darsi Ross said. “You always have to bring snacks, sugar sources and their glucagon and blood checker and all this stuff. It’s a lot more planning. It does make doing day-to-day things a little harder.”
The brothers hope their advocacy will eventually find a cure to diabetes. Regardless of the result, their mother is proud of how they’ve pushed past comfort zones and gone to speak with senators and other politicians.
“I’m proud of them for being an advocate for themselves and each other and other kids they know and don’t know,” their mother said. “It’s been neat to see them do some things they aren’t comfortable with, and sometimes get nervous about it. It’s a neat thing to see your kids be passionate about something that is important to them and all of us.”