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Cumberland 6th-grader takes diabetes campaign to U.S. Senate

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Cumberland 6th-grader takes diabetes campaign to U.S. Senate

CUMBERLAND — When 10-year-old Hannah Ryder was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2006, she didn't let it prevent her from being an ordinary kid.

Life isn't much different than it was before the diagnosis, she said, except that she now wears an insulin pump, checks her blood sugar six times a day, and avoids foods with gluten, since she was also diagnosed with celiac disease, a related auto-immune digestive disorder.

She still plays softball, last winter she was part of the color guard at Greely Middle School, and she likes camping with her Girl Scout troop. One afternoon last week all she wanted to do was feed peanut butter to the family's dog as her mom went over details of one very extraordinary thing the sixth-grader has been asked to do.

This week, Ryder gets to take part in a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., as one of 150 kids from around the country who were chosen as delegates for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Children's Congress, and is one of four children who was asked to speak before the U.S. Senate as part of the JDRF's "Promise to Remember Me" campaign, exposing the faces of childhood diabetes while requesting increased Senate funding for diabetes research.

While her daughter has been living the fairly normal life of a middle schooler – albeit the only diabetic middle schooler at Greely this year – Pam Ryder has been volunteering for JDRF. She's on the committee that plans an annual diabetes walk in the area, and has helped her daughter raise more than $5,000 for the organization over the last three years.

In order to support Hannah – and also to get in a family vacation – the Ryders, including Hannah's three siblings, are in Washington, D.C., this week. The kids got to miss their last day of school, and are looking forward to seeing the zoo and the giant pandas more than anything.

In fact, Ryder had little interest in anything other than the zoo – she said she doesn't want to see the White House, and she's not interested in any monuments. She does think its pretty cool that she'll be surrounded by kids dealing with the same disease she has, but also seems unfazed by it.

"I know there are lots of people with diabetes," she said, moving on to talk about her sister's love of pandas and the various D.C. museums they might visit.

In the letter Hannah Ryder wrote to Congress as part of her application to be part of the Children's Congress, she told about her diabetes walk team and other fundraisers she and her mom have done to raise money and awareness for disease research.

"I hope that we raised enough money with our team and I hope that Congress gives them the rest of the money that they need because I really don't want other kids to get diabetes," she wrote. And if she were president of the U.S., she added, she'd make sure there were more walks and more money to help find a cure.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.