Why Advocacy Counts and Makes a Difference

IF ONE MORE IGNORANT PERSON tells me that they have a cure for Type1 Diabetes, I am really going to scream!!! While shopping, I was discussing health and wellness with a holistic healer.  For whatever reason, when I mentioned my brother engages in a wellness regimen to manage his illness, she told me that there was a cure!  When I said, “he is TYPE1 – Insulin Dependent, NOT Type2,” she assured me I was wrong and that he really does not need insulin but diet and exercise.  AS IF I do not know what I am talking about, having personally dealt with the disease for 10 years.

In an earlier post, When a Cause Hits Home – Volunteering with a Personal Purpose, I described my brother’s struggle with Type1 Diabetes.  An autoimmune disease, his life DEPENDS on daily doses of insulin and blood sugar measurements through finger sticks.  His pancreas DOES NOT function.  He did not acquire diabetes through diet or any behavior of his own.  Doctors, meaning Endocrinologists, believe that an environmental trigger stopped his pancreas from working, and he was genetically predisposed to Type1.  He has never been obese or overweight, in fact, at 6’0, he struggles to maintain a weight over 140 lbs.  Anyone who would suggest he STOP using insulin very ignorant about the disease. 

Sadly, this is not the first person to tell me that my Type1 brother does not need insulin to survive. Maybe these people would like to see what happened when he had a bad batch of insulin. He ended up in ICU for 5 days and nearly died. 

My rant has a point.  Advocacy and education about YOUR cause is vital to the public receiving information about the issue at hand.  Potential donors, volunteers, and supporters MUST know the FACTS and MYTHS about issues, such as Type1.  Otherwise, they will not understand the urgency families are experiencing as everyday 80 more people are diagnosed with this life threatening disease.   Everything on the outside seems fine, but inside the lives of these families there is struggle, fear, depression, anxiety, and a glimmer of hope…that one day…their loved one will be cured.  

Advocating and educating the public and other stakeholders does not mean you have to march on Washington and storm the state house.  It can be as simple as making a YouTube video about your personal experience, writing a guest blog for an organization working on your cause, sharing information through social media contacts to raise awareness, and correcting ignorant people whose suggestions could harm a loved one, should you follow the advice.

JDRF, the leading organization fighting for a cure for Type1 has done a great job in encouraging families to share their personal experiences with the disease on YouTube.  In turn, these videos are shared on Twitter and other social media platforms.  These experiences are personal, inspire others to action, and provide a face for the disease.  You can make a difference through advocacy and education for your cause.  Get involved today!

How are you advocating for YOUR cause?  Please share.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!


Diabetes Mine

American Diabetes Association


Breaking through Barriers – Volunteering for Disabled Recreation

“Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I am not handicapped.”

Team Hoyt Bronze Statue, Boston, MA

I am an avid runner.  I love everything about participating in a race.  I love the rigor and exhaustion of training, the crowd at the start line, the sense of accomplishment at the finish.  I enjoy picking up my race packet and posting my bib in competition with my spouse, on the wall.  At the end of a race, my physical and mental rewards are indescribable.  There is nothing else in life I do that makes me feel more alive.

One of my favorite stories is that of Team Hoyt.  This father and son duo, Dick and Rick, is a Boston Marathon legend having finished 31 Boston Marathon races.  Rick, who has Cerebral Palsy, is quadriplegic, and cannot walk or talk on his own.  However, his parents insisted on immersing Rick in activities for him to enjoy a life as normal as possible.  When a group of engineers at Tufts University built a computer that Rick could use through a series of head taps to communicate, his first words were “Go Bruins,” in support of his hometown team competing for the Stanley Cup.

When Rick was 13, he told his dad that he wanted to participate in a five-mile run for a paralyzed Lacrosse player.  So, Dick pushed Rick in his wheel chair and finished the race second to last.  Rick typed a message to his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I am not handicapped.”  Since then, Team Hoyt embarked on a racing journey to include over 1,000 distance races and triathlons.  They have run across the country, participated in Iron Man competitions, and are the face of the Boston Marathon that is complete with a bronze statue of Team Hoyt.

Recreational activities are vital to the social, psychological, and developmental well-being of disabled children, teens, and adults.  The benefits are immense, from developing self-confidence and language skills, to social interaction and trauma therapy.  Everyday volunteers are helping developmentally disabled people participate in activities previously unheard of, to experience the exhilaration enjoyed by non-disabled people.

Martha, a previous member of my staff, was disabled due to polio.  She had difficulty walking, and was aided by crutches.  When, as a teenager, her family visited Yosemite National Park, she was told to stay home because she could not walk very far.  So, when the Access Leisure Program in our department hosted a Yosemite hike for disabled adults, staff encouraged Martha to go.  She went, she hiked, and she returned the next week beaming with confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

Organizations that provide recreational activities and therapy are typically non-profit and vigorously compete for funding.  Services depend on the contributions of volunteers, who enable those with disabilities to break through barriers and enjoy the exhilaration of sports and recreation. Organizations such as Kids and Horses in Minden, NV and Access Leisure in Sacramento, CA are two of my favorites, but there are MANY more in need of help.  Find what is available in your community and make a difference!

How are you volunteering to help people with disabilities? Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!

Wounded Warrior Project

Kids and Horses

Access Leisure

Network for Good

Leverage Baby Boomers for YOUR Volunteer Program


Senior Volunteer Provides Security for Neighborhood Event

The early Baby Boomer generation is well into retirement and thousands more are joining them every day.  We hear so much about how the Baby Boomers will bankrupt Social Security, overwhelm the medical industry, and increase the demand for long term care.  I want to bring to light a positive note about this generation that includes my parents.  Baby Boomers are generally in better health upon retirement, have a variety of skills, and many are looking for opportunities to volunteer.  As organizations, we should be ready to welcome retirees into our volunteer base and tailor opportunities to fulfill their interests.

My grandma, who passed away last year, was a lifelong social citizen.  She was active in her community, volunteered to help those in need, and was the Chair of the Historical Society in her town until her early nineties.  When my siblings and I would visit, she was always attending meetings or volunteering with the Grange, Women’s Club, the church, or a myriad of other causes for good.  In fact, when I was in high school, she told us she was going to go back to work for a vacation because she was always busy in her community.

She was not alone.  Many retirees, equipped with a valuable skillset after a long career, have extra time to give, and are interested and willing to volunteer for causes they could not engage in while working or raising a family.  Of those who have volunteered for me, retirees are some of the most knowledgeable, skilled, diligent, committed, and dependable volunteers.  While some are limited in mobility, many volunteer activities are still possible.

I have worked with older adult volunteers from newly retired Baby Boomers to the elderly population.  There are a lot of people in this group willing and eager to make a difference.  At my old office inside of a Community Center, an all-volunteer group supported a Senior Program for socializing.  An accountant, a nun, and a nurse, all retired, coordinated all of its activities, attended by nearly 100 seniors.  Others made wellness phone calls or home visits to isolated seniors who lived alone.  One of our retired attorneys, a Stanford alumnus, volunteered legal services to the library system. Elderly volunteers who could not canvass the neighborhood for a campaign, instead made phone calls to voters.  Retirees are adopting teenagers with little expectation for a family before aging out of the system.  An old friend who recently retired, is volunteering full time for the California State Fair this summer.   The list goes on, and all of these older adults are making a difference!

If your organization benefits or can benefit from volunteers,  engage retired Baby Boomers in the work.  Develop volunteer tasks and assignments that leverage the skills of this group and grow with aging needs while cultivating their interests.  Embrace their spirit of commitment and giving to support YOUR cause.  Otherwise your organization is missing out.

Please share your experiences!  Leave a comment.  Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!