Rowes Wharf resident Francis Selldorff, a junior at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, MA and patient at Joslin Diabetes Center, will be named Joslin’s 2018 Merritt J. Levitan Youth Ambassador at the Center’s annual High Hopes Gala on Saturday, November 4th. As the Youth Ambassador, Francis will take on the responsibility of educating the Boston community about Joslin Diabetes Center, advocating for diabetes awareness and acting as a spokesperson at various events throughout the year.
Francis was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on October 2nd, 2014, but the eighth grader didn’t realize at the time what having diabetes really meant or how it would impact his life. Luckily, his mother Nancy was familiar with Joslin Diabetes Center and sought care at Joslin for her son.
“Everyone knows that Joslin has such a high standard of care and that was very important for us,” said Nancy.
Soon after, Francis became a patient of Dr. Lori Laffel, Chief of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Section at Joslin, with whom the family has built a great relationship over the last three years.
“Dr. Laffel is more than just a doctor,” said Francis. “She has an amazing way of connecting with her patients. She really got to know our family and does everything she can to make sure I can have a normal life.”
As a hockey player and avid sailor, Francis stays busy and active and doesn’t let his diabetes get in the way. He says that while diabetes does make playing sports “more risky,” he has figured out what his body needs to stay healthy in between practices.
“Having diabetes has taught me how to take care of my body,” said Francis. “It really made me understand the importance of nutrition, being aware of how I’m feeling and checking in with myself.”
He has come quite a long way since his initial diagnosis and now wants to take the next step to help educate others about diabetes by planning a fundraiser at his school similar in concept to Miracle Network’s Dance Marathon, which raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America. Francis’s goal is to help other kids his age learn about diabetes and raise money to aid in the goal of finding a cure. He believes that his peers will respond better to receiving information about a topic like diabetes if it comes from someone their own age who has had a personal experience with it.
“I’m humbled to be selected as Joslin’s new Youth Ambassador and I’m excited to have the chance to continue learning about advances in diabetes research and care,” he says. “I’m also looking forward to sharing my knowledge with other people. It’s so important to bring attention and awareness to diabetes because you never know if you or someone you know might develop it later on in life.”
In 2014, Joslin renamed its Youth Ambassador Award to honor Merritt Levitan, an 18-year-old local woman whose story touched millions across the country in the summer of 2013 when she was struck and killed by a distracted driver while cycling across the country on a six-week organized trip. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a very young age, Merritt was a patient and avid supporter of Joslin Diabetes Center and was an active part of its mission to find a cure for the disease. As part of her cross-country ride, she was wearing a monitor and recording detailed information to contribute to research on how exercise effects those living with diabetes.
Francis will accept the 2018 Merritt J. Levitan Youth Ambassador Award at Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Gala, a black-tie affair to be held at The Westin Copley Place Hotel on Saturday, November 4th from 6pm-midnight. For tickets or to make a donation, please visit www.joslin.org/gala.