If you haven’t yet heard of the Diabetes Empowerment Summit, you should.

It’s a virtual conference that aims to give PWDs (people with diabetes) insights into how others live with the condition, via stories and tips they can use in their own lives — with no need to travel or pay pricey registration fees.

Now in its third year, the Diabetes Empowerment Summit runs May 1-5, 2019. The sessions can not only be viewed in real-time, but also at your own pace from the comfort your couch or office or wherever you might be, whenever it suits you. Amazingly, roughly 9,000 people from around the world have taken part so far in the first few years (!), and the hope is that the 2019 summit will bring in that combined number of people for this third event alone.

We recently connected with organizer Daniele Hargenrader, who many know as the “Diabetes Dominator” in our community. Diagnosed just after her 9th birthday back in September 1991, she’s become a well-known advocate who has authored a book, and provides health coaching to help PWDs get motivated and create positive habits for their health management and lives. She established this Empowerment Summit to spread that help across regions and time zones, she tells us.

Here’s what Danielle has to say about this year’s event:

DM) Thanks for chatting Daniele! First, there are lots of diabetes events these days. What’s really special about this summit?

DH) This is the only free-to-attend, fully online diabetes conference that exits in the world that focuses 100% on the mental and emotional aspects of living with all types of diabetes. It is a resource that my team and I spend over 6 months creating each time, and pour our hearts and souls into it because we’ve been told time and time again that having the opportunity to attend this event has been life-changing.

It was born of the thousands of people I’ve spoken with over the years that I’ve recommended going to a diabetes conference to gain peer support, learn and grow, but the people could not afford the travel, registration, child care, etc. But they still very much wanted to hear from the caliber of speakers we provide and that you would to expect to see at a high-level in-person conference.

How do you find these high-quality speakers?

I do a lot of research year-round and keep a running document of people I’d like to invite in order to continually offer new and fresh perspectives each year. We’re always looking for people living with all types of diabetes who are telling their stories, speaking their truths, following their passions and not letting diabetes be the reason they don’t go after what they want to experience in life — or even better, those who view their diabetes as a way to help themselves and to help other people do and feel better in some way.

OK, so what’s different for this third event in 2019?

We have different speakers, of course, with even more of a focus on mental and emotional hygiene practices and helping viewers understand that those practices are mandatory if they want to have any chance of feeling ‘sustainable acceptance’ of their diabetes.

Just like showers and teeth brushing are accepted by most humans as necessary components to feeling well, we are aiming to demonstrate that things like meditation, journaling, grounding, expression of gratitude, prayer, mantras and deep breathing, and a myriad of other mental/emotional hygiene practices cannot be ignored or seen as optional if one wants to truly feel well day-to-day.

How do you measure success and whether “empowerment” happens… especially in the context of a virtual summit vs. an in-person event?

I’m not sure how empowerment is measured from an in-person event (would love to hear that!). But we have sent out surveys in the past, and we have received hundreds of emails, Facebook messages and the like from people telling us how watching the interviews has sparked new life into their relationship with their diabetes and what they believe is possible for their lives.

Any life impact stories you can share from those who’ve attended previously?

These three messages I’ve received in previous years show the impacts specifically, though I’m not sharing their names as they were personal messages:

  1. “Daniele, I just wanted to thank you for putting this together — you have changed my life. Everything I hear is just speaking to me, and I really have felt very lonely with this disease. I read constantly on how to better manage diabetes and recently got a CGM which has been a real game-changer. I was diagnosed with type 1 at age 63 and am now 67, and it has been a very difficult struggle and has made me feel my post-work life was not going to be what I hoped. I want to feel invigorated and energized to make this a journey, not a sentence — and the summit has helped me do just that. I just want to tell you how grateful I am that you put this together.”
  2. “Thank you so much for what you do. I listened to all the presenters and every single one’s heart and passion touched me. I am a Director of Nursing Education from Cape Town, SA. Seven years ago I made it my mission to know everything I could about diabetes. I empowered myself with the knowledge in diabetes, BUT most of all I teach my patients to live. I am so grateful for your summit. It has changed the way I treat my patients.”
  3. “I wanted to thank you for doing this. It really is great to hear other people’s stories and points of view. The videos have given me a resurgence of energy and reminded me that anything is possible. I have been slowly working on changing my eating/exercise habits over the past couple months to work on building a healthier me thanks to attending the summit.”

Where can people find more information about the summit and sign up to participate?

You can find more information on the Diabetes Empowerment Summit site, which includes a run-down of all the speakers — including PWDs, celebrities, advocates, athletes, and healthcare professionals with various areas of expertise areas and focus re: living with diabetes.

Importantly, it’s FREE OF CHARGE. You also get these “bonus” items by email as soon as you register: a “Love Yourself to Health” guidebook and journal authored by Daniele, and the newly released book “Blood Sugar in Check” by type 1 author Andrew Lawless.

Very cool! We look forward to following this year’s event online, Daniele!