If you know my story, you know that it took me a long time to find my way in the diabetic world. I felt lost and alone for YEARS before connecting with other diabetics online. Through social media I have gained a virtual place where I am no longer alone. Still, IRL (in real life) I had never seen someone “like me.” Not once had I ever seen someone else wearing a pump, giving injections, checking blood sugars, etc. The online community gave me a new found confidence but most importantly, a new found purpose. I knew what it felt like to feel out of place and alone. My new purpose became that I would never want someone to feel that way again. I decided to dedicate my life to bringing awareness, supporting others and raising funds for a cure. It’s a big task and I knew I would need backup. That’s when I discovered the American Diabetes Association and my life has forever changed.
I always knew the American Diabetes Association (ADA) existed, even before I was diabetic but I never really knew what they did. I’d seen their logo slapped on a couple foods or mentioned in a commercial or something, but I never knew that they could actually help me. I went on their website and there was a whole plethora of resources, events and ways to get involved. On the site there is an option to “Get Local.” You type in your zip code and it tells you all the events surrounding your area. To my surprise there were tons of upcoming events and ways to get involved. Now where to begin!?
The first event I attended was an open house for the Diversity Outreach Committee. There were about 10 other people there interested in getting involved with the ADA. Dr's, nurses, diabetic educators, and just everyday people who have been affected with diabetes. For me, the Diversity Outreach Committee was the best way to get my foot in the door. I am hispanic and the Diversity Outreach Committee attends health fairs, summits, etc, that bring awareness and resources to everyone but really targets minorities. At that open house, Sandra, a diabetic educator at a local hospital, approached me. She told me that she thought that I would be a great example for young diabetics. A health professional can connect with a patient but its a whole different ballgame when one diabetic can connect with another. I was excited and nervous for the opportunity. I had never met another diabetic before! Lots of thoughts went through my head. What would it be like?! Me? A great example? I'm not a perfect diabetic. What do I even have to offer? Excited, nervous, not sure what to expect, I showed up for the next Family Link event (another great way for families to get involved with the ADA!) During this Family Link event, spanish speaking parents of T1D's were going to take a course on healthy eating and carb counting. It also doubled as a support group for the parents to get to talk to each other and share "me too's!" My role at this Family Link event was to take the kids in the next room and hold a support group for them. I wasn't prepared for it but it I sat with the kids, led the support group and we had the best time!!! We just laughed and talked about silly things people say about diabetes, what we hate about t1d, what devices we use, what kinda snacks we carry, and so much more. The kids had no idea but I walked away with more than they did. When I walked in that room and saw other kids wearing T-Slim's, seeing their pierced fingertips and hearing their stories was so touching. No one wants to be diabetic, we didn't ask for this, yet we work every day to make up for our useless pancreas. I know the struggle I go through everyday, I see my friends struggle on social media but to see someone else just like me in person was heartwarming on a whole new level!
I can't thank the American Diabetes Association and CDE Sandra Chmelnik for the gift they have gave me, The gift of feeling a part of something. The gift of belonging. The gift of never being alone. I continue to be part of the Diversity Outreach Committee to this day but I also do whatever else I can to be part of the American Diabetes Association. You can find me at Family Link events, health fairs, and I am part of the growing Young Professional Leadership Council. I even got the opportunity to be interviewed and tell my story on Spanish radio on behalf of the ADA. Since being involved with the ADA, I've gained more confidence to step out and get involved anywhere I can. If you follow me on @glitterglucose Instagram, you can see my photos at many diabetic events. My life's purpose is to help others, bring awareness and advocate for those affected by diabetes. I often get asked if I work for a diabetic organization. The answer is no. I work full time in the fashion but I spend just as many hours volunteering my time with the American Diabetes Association, JDRF and Beyond Type 1.
I'm sharing my story with you today because on instagram I get asked EVERY.SINGLE.DAY how people can get involved in the diabetic community. Below I will list some ways of how you can get involved in your community with multiple organizations.
American Diabetes Association:
American Diabetes Association <----Click here to go to their website.
The ADA is your best bet for local outreach. They have so many programs and committees to get involved in. Their mission is to prevent and cure diabetes while improving the lives of all people affected by diabetes. This means they provide support and education to diabetics, as well as parents and family members affected. They are also big voices in congress! They advocate for access to healthcare, funding and protecting the rights of those with diabetes. One of my favorite things the ADA does is its "Safe Sitter" training. They give parents peace of mind by training baby sitters on how to care for a child with diabetes. These are just a few things the ADA offers. I could go on & on listing everything they offer. Visit their site and see how they can help you or how you can help them!
On their homepage there is an option to "Get Local." Click there for upcoming events you can attend. If you are interested in volunteering, at the top of the page there is a tab that says "In My Community." Click there for and enter your zip code to find volunteer opportunities near you. Keep in mind that the ADA provides resources to ALL those affected by diabetes. Type 1 & Type 2.
JDRF - Type 1 Diabetes Research Funding and Advocacy <---- Click here to go to their website.
JDRF is a research based foundation. They heavily focus on raising funds for a cure! We all want a cure right!? Through the dollars raised and given to JDRF, we have seen many medical breakthroughs. Most recently we have seen the artificial pancreas become approved by the FDA. With JDRF's help, hopefully we will see a cure for diabetes. JDRF also has a heavy presence in children hospitals to help T1D kids through diagnosis. I am part of the JDRF mentorship program. When newly diagnosed patients are in the hospital, JDRF gives them a Bag of Hope. Inside is Rufus, a stuffed bear and many other resources for parents and children. At this time families can request a mentor to help them through the process. Also JDRF has a summit annually in many cities called Type One Nation. There you can visit vendor booths and attend breakout sessions focused on diabetes education.
On the website, there are discussion boards and online support groups. To get involved with JDRF in person, click the link "JDRF Near Me" to find your local chapter. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: in my experience, as well as what I've heard from T1D friends in other cities, if you want to get involved you MUST call or visit your local office in person. JDRF never replied to my email requests and I've heard the same from a few of my friends in other cities. They want the help and need the help but for some reason you must be very persistent to even get a response from them. I actually saw that JDRF was having an event at a local restaurant. I went to the restaurant and made it clear that I wanted to get involved but that every time I inquired I never got a response. After that I followed up with the volunteer coordinator and basically begged to get involved. Still I am not as involved with JDRF as I would like to be, but I'll take what I can get. I did get to be a camp counselor and am part of the growing Young Leadership Committee and Mentorship Program. I also do the JDRF One Walk every year with my family. JDRF needs our dollars. Donate for a cure!
Beyond Type 1
www.beyondtype1.org <---- Click to go to their website.
Beyond Type 1 is probably the most innovate and coolest diabetic non-profit organization. Though they do not have local chapters (YET) you can get involved online in many ways! You can read other peoples inspiring stories, get different lifestyle resources you won't find anywhere else and educational resources for everyone affected by diabetes (T1D's, parents, educators.) They have a heavy social media presence. Follow them on instagram @beyondtype1 and @beyondtype1daily! They also have a really cool app (Beyond Type 1) where you can connect with other diabetics and share struggles, achievements and "me too's!" You can click the tab "Get Involved" on their homepage to find ways to get involved. I am beyond honored to be part of 1 of 14 individuals on the Global Ambassador Council! I love representing Beyond Type 1 on social media and in person at all the other diabetic events I attend. You'll see me wearing a Beyond Type 1 bracelet every day of the week! I am proud to be part of such a cool organization who is changing the way people see diabetes.
I hope this helps you find your way to help and connect with those affected by diabetes in your community. Together we can all raise awareness and funds for these great organizations!