As we come to the end of Diabetes Awareness Month and the year, it's always a good chance to reflect a little on what we do.

Turns out, this month's DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) Blog Carnival prompt encourages all of us active in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) to look back on how we've advocated this year and what we can do differently in 2013. We all worked hard this month (and every day of our D-lives!) to raise awareness about diabetes, and along the way we've certainly learned some lessons and picked up new ideas, right?

That begs the question:

What is the one thing (advocacy, grassroots) we could do differently in the coming year, and how will we accomplish it?

Here at the 'Mine we did our usual awareness efforts leading up to and on World Diabetes Day: covered the D-News, gave talks and helped spread the word at events at conferences around the country, wrote letters to decision-makers, raised some money on our own for diabetes charities, participated in the Big Blue Test, etc.  As a team, I'm sure we'll keep at it, expanding these efforts in 2013.

But in planning for the new year on a personal level, there is something that I'd like to do a little differently.

The idea came from friend and fellow D-Advocate Mike Durbin (who's also one of our talented cartoonists!), when he tweeted a line during the #DSMA discussion in October, answering the same question about what he could do differently:

Right! As much as I love the online world, I am reminded that there's still no substitute for "being there" in person by people's sides to offer support.

So my local diabetes camp is what I am choosing to focus more energy on. I am already a board member with the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana, which runs the Camp Until A Cure in Noblesville, IN (a northern suburb of Indy) for local kids and teens with diabetes. While I've been a part of that for a couple years now, I'm stepping up to do more to help this organization in my local community and beyond. A few months back, I took on the volunteer role of marketing committee chair to help get the word out about the DYFI and that's what my efforts will focus on more this coming year.

That involves:

  • Writing letters to my local newspapers on a regular monthly basis, not only mentioning the DYFI but also hitting on some of the more common diabetes misconceptions that find their way into news coverage. This means being all squeaky wheel and getting noticed, you know?
  • Working with local D-Camp families to carry on that advocacy as they're able, so that there's a whole network of local D-advocates working on spreading awareness.
  • Using the DYFI as a bridge between the local American Diabetes Association and JDRF chapters, which have gone through some recent leadership and volunteer changes and aren't working with the camps as closely as they had in the past. This also serves as channel for local D-families to let these two bigger organizations know what they want and need.

As a kid, I went to D-Camp up in Southeast Michigan the summer after I was diagnosed at age five. But I wasn't a fan, mostly because the mosquitoes attacked my little legs and that pretty much made me not want to be exposed to that torture again. I tried again and volunteered as a summer counselor when I was about 16, but at that age my rebellion had started and diabetes was the last thing I wanted to pay attention to (the part I could choose, at least)... so that didn't last.

Not until my adult years and third decade of life rolled around did I find my way back to D-Camp... this time in the administrative role. And just being a part of it, seeing the responses from the kids and the parents, has opened my eyes to how incredibly meaningful the experience can be.

Not too long ago, the executive director of our camp (a good friend and a fellow type 1 PWD herself) told me about a local D-family that had filed for bankruptcy. Despite all their financial woes and concerns, what was their biggest regret? That they couldn't afford to send their child to camp during the summer. That was heartbreaking... and shows just how much this camp experience means to families. As a board, we elected to support this family by waiving their camp fee completely.

These moments touch my soul and remind me of why being a part of a local grassroots nonprofit like this means so much... especially compared to some of the bigger organizations that demand time yet often seem more focused on fundraising and "messaging" than on the people present who are involved in the here and now.

In my heart, I know being involved in my local Indiana D-Camp is where I can make the most difference... And so that's what I'll be doing differently in 2013.

What about you? How has your advocacy evolved and what changes do you have in mind for the new year?


{This post is our November 2012 entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. Click here to learn more if you'd like to participate, too.}

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.