In case you didn’t get the memo: Yes, those of us with diabetes CAN eat ice cream.

Even though some outside the diabetes community don’t think so, and they try to convince us we can’t or shouldn’t, the fact remains that an ice cream sundae or vanilla waffle cone every once in a while isn’t going to kill us. It’s not the cause of any type of diabetes, either, and we’re not promoting unhealthy eating by enjoying some ice cream on a special occasion.

That was the message last summer, when the Diabetes Online Community (DOC) lit up in response to an Indianapolis newspaper columnist’s published rant that diabetics can’t or shouldn’t eat ice cream — and that any organization using ice cream to raise money to send children with diabetes to camp has sold its soul to the devil.

Yes, he actually wrote that. And we in the DOC responded. Loudly. Far and wide. (The newspaper has since removed the article – !)

And there was ice cream.

Now a year later, we’re again sending the message that ice cream is OK. But more importantly, the message is that myths, stereotypes and misinformation about diabetes really hurt. They hurt fundraising, the general public’s awareness, and the emotions of kids who are made to feel different and that they “can’t do this” simply because of their diabetes.

The Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana (DYFI) is hosting its 23rd annual Ice Cream On the Circle event July 13 in downtown Indianapolis, sponsored for the second year by the American Dairy Association of Indiana. Last year, more than a thousand people floated in and we raised $6,400 to help send children and teens with diabetes to our D-camp, called Camp Until a Cure. And it also helped raise some great awareness for the broader diabetes community, conveniently right in the middle of National Ice Cream Month.

Yep, this year there will be $3 gigantic sundaes drizzled with chocolate, strawberry, caramel and butterscotch syrups and a variety of topping choices, including some sugar-free options! My wife and I will be volunteering to help serve sundaes, along with about 30 “celebrity scoopers” that include local media personalities, sports notables, and business dignitaries. There will also be face painters, mascots, interactive games, displays, music, the Indiana Pacers Fan Van, and real live cows, Molly and her calves from Purdue Dairy Sciences.

I’m very proud of this organization, and that’s why (disclosure) I’ve been a board member for the past two years.

Sure, this DYFI event is a fundraiser to help send type 1 kids to D-Camp. But it’s bigger than that; it’s also about raising general diabetes awareness for everyone.

With all the buzz last year in response to this event, the DYFI has decided to take this “ice cream awareness” to the next level.

(Note that after my posts last year about the ice cream social, the highest-ranking search phrase that still brings people to my personal blog regularly is some variation of, “Can diabetics eat ice cream?” My answer, if it isn’t already obvious: YES, you CAN!) 

 The DYFI is planning to expand the reach of our event’s success and use this ice cream social to target misconceptions and misinformation, especially in the press and media. We’re working to place articles about diabetes in local newspapers ahead of time, and we’ll have at least one PWD on site all morning and afternoon to talk with media about diabetes. Plus, fellow D-Blogger and advocate Kelly Kunik offered a suggestion about having a “diabetes cheat sheet” on site for people to grab and the scoopers will be dishing out some phrases at the booths: “Yes, we CAN eat ice cream!”, “Check your blood sugar, count your carbs and enjoy some ice cream!”, and “Diabetes Myth: Sugar and ice cream don’t cause diabetes!” 

But, there’s more — and it involves the DOC!! The DYFI’s executive director Jenna Holt, a fellow type 1 herself, created an online ice cream social event to coincide with the actual event happening in Indy. Basically, people can sign up on the Facebook page for this Ice Cream Social to Support Diabetes and participate that same day, by eating ice cream and then taking a picture and posting it to the page! It’s open for everyone, anywhere, in hopes of raising awareness about PWDs being able to eat ice cream (and have normal lives).

Does this sound familiar? It should.

Last summer, in response to all the media misinformation and buzz coming out of the DYFI event, our type 2 friend Lizmari Collazo (who has since started blogging at The Angry Type 2 Diabetic) created an online ice cream social in August. More than 2,400 people joined in and helped spread word about it. And she’s been planning to do it again this summer, on Aug. 4 — which is awesome, because it’s yet another chance to raise awareness! And with record heat in many places around the country, ice cream will probably be in even greater demand!

Lizmari says she doesn’t have a specific theme in mind, but she’s thinking of something along the lines of  freedom, thriving with diabetes, and ‘Yes, I can eat that.’  Basically, embracing life, with diabetes…

“We can still enjoy every day things, in moderation… and it’s a choice we make, versus a rule to break,” she says. “I really want to focus more on this, to help build awareness in people’s minds — even some scared diabetics’ minds — that we are not under dietary lock and key, all the time.”

The DYFI ice cream social and Lizmari’s aren’t specifically linked, except that we’re all part of the same Diabetes Community doing advocacy work. These ice cream socials are just two events aimed at raising awareness about diabetes and fighting misconceptions, and it’s exciting to join with others who are doing the same! That’s what this is all about: using our collective voices to hit these issues where they’re needed.

So, I know at least once this summer I’ll be grabbing a spoon and enjoying a sundae. I hope you’ll join me (get ready to dose!). Head on over to the Ice Cream Social pages online and sign up – the DYFI’s Ice Cream To Support Diabetes on Friday and Lizmari’s Second Annual Ice Cream Social on Aug. 4. Then just plan on enjoying your favorite cone or dish and sharing the experience with everyone!  Hopefully, we can again spread the word that when it comes to people with diabetes eating ice cream…

Yes, we CAN. And we will!