Waterloo boy spreads positive message in D.C.

Mason Hoffman meets with U.S. Congressman Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) during his stay in Washington, D.C. (submitted photo)

Aside from diets, most people are able to eat or drink whatever they please without much thought about what it will do to their body.

This is not the case for those with diabetes. Diabetics must watch what they eat to ensure they can maintain a healthy blood sugar level. This can be difficult, especially for children suffering from the disease.

Mason Hoffman, a seventh grader from Waterloo, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 11 months old. His first diabetes memory comes from preschool when his teacher would pull him aside to check his blood sugar. By about age 5, Mason was controlling his blood sugar on his own.

Helping control blood sugar was his insulin pump, which he was lucky enough to receive at age 3. The pump helps supply his body with a more consistent stream of insulin and removes the need for multiple daily injections.

The Hoffman family has supported the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation since Mason’s 2004 diagnosis. They participate in the annual JDRF Charity Walk with their team of family and friends; their slogan is “Movin’ For Mason.”

Mason Hoffman of Waterloo speaks to the delegation during the JDRF’s Children’s Congress this summer in Washington, D.C. (submitted photo)

Each year, Mason’s uncle hosts a golf tournament to raise funds for JDRF. Mason is always on hand to thank the golfers personally.

Together, the family has raised more than $150,000 since his diagnosis. The young diabetic is passionate about research for a cure and is always trying to raise awareness. In a letter to then-U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, Mason said, “Research for Type I diabetes is really important to me. I really think, in my heart, that we can have a cure in my lifetime.”

This letter was just the beginning of Mason reaching out to government officials.

Late last year, Mason’s mom heard about JDRF’s Children’s Congress. The program pays for more than 150 diabetic children from around the country to travel to Washington, D.C. every two years. Once there, JDRF provides the opportunity to meet others like them and talk to their representatives.

Mason applied to be a delegate representing Illinois. A few months later, he was ecstatic to find out he was chosen. With technology help from some adults, Mason made a video about his childhood with diabetes; delegates from all over the nation made videos like his to introduce themselves.

On July 12, Mason and his mother boarded a plane for Washington, D.C. Before the Children’s Congress began, they had time to tour the nation’s capital. They saw much of the city on a double-decker bus and then decided to rent bikes to ride around the city at their own pace. Mason laughed as he joked about his mom trying to keep up with him on the bikes.

His favorite place was the Washington Monument, where he was able to ride to the top.

“It was awesome,” Mason told the Republic-Times.

When the Children’s Congress event began, each delegate had the opportunity to exchange a small gift with their fellow delegates. Mason gave out a pin with a picture of Illinois featuring a star over Waterloo and his face. While most delegates gave out pins, Mason was excited to receive a small bag of candy from one delegate.

Later, Mason had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Congressman Mike Bost. This was Mason’s opportunity to ask his representative to pass a Medicare bill that would continue coverage for continuous glucose monitoring devices. Medicare doesn’t currently cover these devices for diabetics on their plans — diabetics like Mason’s grandpa. He also met with secretaries from the offices of senators Kirk and Durbin.

An exciting moment came when Mason had the opportunity to ask a question to a panel of celebrity role models. A music lover, Mason asked Carlos Santana’s nephew and American Idol star Adam Lasher if checking the blood sugar on his fingers hinders his ability to play guitar.

“I get stage fright everywhere,” Mason said with a soft smile.

Lasher told him it can be an issue, but that it just makes you tougher in the end.

When asked what he would tell those who wonder what it’s like to have diabetes, Mason said, “I don’t know what it’s like not to have it. I don’t remember. It’s just what I’m used to.”

In his Children’s Congress application letter, Mason wrote: “I check my blood sugar in front of classmates and friends and when people ask about it, I’m more than happy to explain to them what I have and what it means. The more people who know, the better!”

Mason Hoffman may be living with diabetes, but he isn’t letting it slow him down. The seventh grader just found out he made the junior high school baseball team. He still plays soccer even with its effects on his blood sugar.

He and his family are working so that diabetics like his grandfather and his new friends he met in D.C. can all live better lives.

As shown at the end of his Children’s Congress introductory video, Mason is working so that “Type One” can become “Type None.”

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