One in a continuing series on the stars who bring their causes to D.C. Wednesday’s visitor: Ray Allen.
Event: A Senate hearing on diabetes research and funding.
Setting: Dirksen Senate Building hearing room, standing-room-only.
Bona fides: Guard for the NBA champion Miami Heat; father of six-year-old Walker, who has Type 1 diabetes; accomplished celebrity spokesman for the disease, who met with Joe Biden and other lawmakers before the hearing.
Back-up: Actress Jean Smart, diagnosed at age 13; Griffin Rodgers of NIH; Sens. Bill Nelson, Susan Collins, Elizabeth Warren; 160 children with diabetes, including Walker.
What he wants: Continued federal funding for medical research threatening by sequester cuts; a cure to eliminate the seven to 10 shots a day his son has to endure (“He looks at us and he says, ‘When is this going to end?’”).
How he looked: Formal in a blue suit, white shirt and blue and white tie. Tall, obviously, but strikingly so during his photo-ops with the kids.
Talking points: Celebrities like to say they’re just like everyone else, but Allen made a compelling case that, off the court, he’s no different that millions of other parents faced with the disease. His son was a toddler when he diagnosed in 2008, and the effort to keep him healthy is a 24-hour effort for Allen and his wife Shannon: “Any miscalculation on our part could be life-threatening for Walker. You might think we finally catch our breath when Walker goes to bed — not so.” Blood sugar levels can crash during the night, plunging diabetic children into comas, testified Allen. “So we wake up every two hours throughout the night on the clock to check Walker’s blood sugars. Shannon and I often joke we are vampires, because neither one of us has slept through the night in five years.”
Soundbite: “The Miami Heat, we played 106 games this past season. We had game days, practice days, travel days, even a few off days. Days to rest, days to heal, days to rejuvenate, recharge. But for Walker here and a lot of kids here in this room and a lot of people living with diabetes, there are no off days.”
VIDEO: Ray Allen’s new opponent: Type 1 diabetes: