In his big backyard in Tega Cay, 9-year-old Joseph Bass has perfect access to Lake Wylie, where he swims and rafts.
He considers his life "pretty normal," except that before getting in and after getting out, he has to check his insulin.
"My day begins with a needle to prick my finger and a needle before I go to bed," Bass wrote in a letter to Congress last October. "My mom even gets up at 3 a.m. and checks me again to make sure my blood sugar is okay."
Bass is one of 150 children headed to Washington, D.C., as members of Children's Congress, a group to help legislators understand Type 1 diabetes and the need to find a cure.
Every two years, children ages 4 to 17 are chosen to represent more than 3 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Each child has a story of their diagnosis and day-to-day life with the illness.
Bass was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3 and has depended on an insulin pump since age 6. Without his insurance, the cost of diabetic supplies would average more than $200 each month.
"Since I got diabetes and heard the word cure, I wanted one," said Bass, who checks his blood sugar about eight times a day. "When I was really little I thought it was as easy as going to Wal-Mart and buying it."
In Washington, Bass and his peers will ask congressmen to continue federal funding at $150 million annually for Type 1 diabetes research. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) awarded $122 million in diabetes research in 2006, and has given more than $1 billion to research since its founding in 1970.
"From a national perspective these trips have been one of the most effective advocacy efforts for diabetes research," said Beth Brodie of JDRF. "The kids have a great impact on senators and legislators of their states."
The events will begin on Monday, when all 150 children will sing "Promise to Remember Me" on the lawn of the Capitol, along with special guest, Trisha Yearwood, and others.
Later that day, professional sports players with Type 1 diabetes, such as race car driver Dexter Bean, will speak at a town hall meeting about their experiences with the illness. Each child has two questions for the players.
Bass said he plans to ask Bean what the driver does when he "gets low," or when his blood sugar drops and he needs juice or a snack.
Tuesday, eight of the 150 children will testify at a congressional hearing. Afterwards, the children will meet Adam Morrison with the Charlotte Bobcats and actress Mary Tyler Moore, both Type 1 diabetes patients.
Type 1 diabetes causes a person's pancreas to stop producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to get energy from food. The disease usually strikes in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood, but the effects last a lifetime.
According to JDRF, those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes require multiple injections of insulin just to survive, unlike Type 2 patients, who do not always require insulin injections.
Bass's mother, Cathy Bass, calculated that Joseph has had his fingers pricked 17,520 times since he was three. Before his insulin pump, he had gotten 2,920 shots. On his sicker days, Bass sometimes pricks his finger more than 20 times.
"[Needles] are what keep me alive," Bass wrote last October. "They're just a part of my abnormal life."
Bass's entire family has joined JDRF. His father is on the board for the Charlotte chapter and his mother is on the Walk to Cure Diabetes committee.
The trip will last until Wednesday.