Who are the A1c Champions? They're kind of like a traveling DOC — a group of advocates around the country who volunteer to give motivational talks to groups of PWDs. The program is open to anyone, sponsored by Sanofi-Aventis, and totally worth getting involved in if you have any interest in D-mentorship!
To become a Champion, you just to need to have an A1c of under 7% and a history of successful diabetes self-management — plus of course the passion to help others live well with diabetes too. Champions are sent out by Sanofi all over the country, but the schedule varies. Some months you might have several presentations, but Sanofi asks that you do two presentations each month, though Helene says the frequency is more like once a quarter. Sanofi keeps you trained by taping and reviewing your presentations and then sending in feedback to help you hone your skills. But no formal speaking training is necessary - Champions work with a coach prior to their first presentation.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the A1c Champions annual meeting in Las Vegas. The group was amazingly diverse and energetic. I felt honored to meet these folks.
And the winners are... Scott Simmons and HÃ©lÃ¨ne Colon-Raphael! Congrats to you both!
We'd like to take the opportunity to introduce you all to these representative Champions, talking about why they do what they do:
HÃ©lÃ¨ne has lived with Type 1 for 24 years, and makes her home in a Philadelphia suburb where she works as an office manager. She currently uses Lantus and Humalog. She was inspired to join the A1c Champions to help others live their lives to the fullest.
"Diabetes is a terrible disease but you can take control of it if you are motivated and willing to do so," she explains. "Mentoring others with diabetes helps me keep it real and keep my tight control of this disease." But that doesn't mean HÃ©lÃ¨ne doesn't still have her own struggles with diabetes, and she's found a support system through the program because they have all "walked in our shoes."
HÃ©lÃ¨ne's family is her No. 1 motivation for managing her diabetes: "My family is my rock that keeps me healthy and together." One of her favorite activities is spending time with her two grandsons, Jackson and Dylan.
Her advice for those struggling with their own diabetes: "Life is not a straight line. No one is perfect. When you are down, pick yourself up and start again!"
Scott, also a Type 1 PWD, lives in Texas where he works as a pharmacist. He was recommended to the program by his endocrinologist. Scott loves traveling and meeting new people around the country, and says that being an A1c Champion continually motivates him in his own diabetes care.
"It makes you feel good when you really connect with someone and they understand how they can make a difference in their diabetes management," Scott says. "It doesn't always happen, but sometimes you will have somebody really excited about everything you have to say. That will get me motivated to try even harder on controlling my diabetes!"
As with HÃ©lÃ¨ne, family is a driving force for Scott, he says. "I have two kids in high school and I want to see them graduate from high school and college. I want to be there for their weddings and play with the grandkids. I think there are often times when I struggle to manage my diabetes. When I am struggling, I have to think of that most important reason for managing my diabetes. Which for me is my kids. When I think of them, that gives me enough motivation to get over the obstacles."
Scott's advice to those struggling with diabetes: "It is hard, but it is worth the effort. Managing your diabetes is something you have to do every day of your life but you can do it. Remember that you have friends and relatives that will help you too!"
Wise words and sound advice! Scott and HÃ©lÃ¨ne echo the sentiments of an exciting new DOC-wide initiative called the "You Can Do This" project. The brainchild of D-blogger Kim from Texting My Pancreas, the campaign calls for all of us to share our stories and our struggles via video. The project officially begins June 15:
Just goes to show you that we all struggle, newbies and veterans alike, and that sharing those struggles is enormously powerful! You Can Do This. Love that.