Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five, Madi Dodge has spent the last ten years (and the majority of her childhood and adolescence) volunteering within the diabetes community. She has done fundraising through a variety of creative methods, and is now serving as the American Diabetes Association’s National Youth Advocate. This allows her to speak out to educate people about what the disease is, and why we need to join together to Stop Diabetes®.
I caught up with Madi to talk about her ten years of volunteer work in light of National Volunteer Appreciation Week.
What made you want to volunteer your time and attention to being the American Diabetes Association’s National Youth Advocate?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was five years old. In the hospital I was scared out of my mind – for all of a day or so. But after I learned some things about my diabetes, and realized that it was not going away anytime soon, I thought about all of the other people dealing with diabetes just like I was.
Being a relatively joyful and optimistic kind of kid, I made a personal promise that I would do all that was in my power to help the huge community of people also dealing with this devastating disease. What can I say… I have always been a dreamer, but I didn’t want to just dream about helping to find a cure, I wanted to act on my dream as well! At five I did not just become a person with diabetes, I became a team captain, a walker, a fundraiser, an event planner, an ambassador, a speaker, a teacher, a mentor and above all, an advocate.
I was nine years old when I first I heard about the National Youth Advocate program. Even though I knew at that age I was too young to effectively represent the community of young people with diabetes, I knew that I definitely wanted to hold that position someday. I applied that year, and every year after. I always looked forward to the application process, answering the essay questions, reflecting and looking back on what I had done the previous year and making plans and goals of what I hoped to accomplish the following year. I especially loved making the videos as part of the application process! Needless to say, when I received the call telling me that I had been chosen to be the 2011 National Youth Advocate, I was actually speechless! (That does not happen very often. 🙂 ) I am proud to represent the American Diabetes Association and the children and teens with diabetes across America! I look forward to all of the opportunities and challenges it will present!
And we’re glad to have you! Over the years you’ve done many different events and fund raisers such as Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes and events you created yourself. Can you tell us a little more about those? What was your favorite?
I have had a team for the Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes (Madison’s Prayer) for the past 10 years. Each year, I set lofty personal and team fundraising goals and I attempt to find creative and unique fundraisers to help meet those goals. I recruit friends, family, and sometimes even people I barely know to help! I hold numerous American Diabetes Association fundraisers throughout the year- Skate 4 a Cure, Dance 4 Diabetes, Diabetes Dinners, raffles, and selling handmade journals – all to raise awareness of diabetes and funds for my team. A few weeks ago I held my first Dance and Skate 4 a CURE! It was amazing! With the help of the skating rink staff, the services of a wonderful DJ, and the support of many friends, we worked together to raise more than $700 that night! It has been my favorite fundraiser so far!
Wow, that’s great! In addition to all of your fund raising successes, you’ve been an active volunteer for years. What have you done and what has it been like for you?
I have served as the Eastern Shore Step Out youth/teen ambassador for seven years. I have volunteered at Sugar Free Weekend Retreats for the last five years. Known as the Bead Princess, I reward young campers with meaningful beads for different positive activities they complete at retreat. For the past two years, I have designed workshops to offer our young campers (ages 3 – 10) at retreat. I am an active participant on Planet D, a support message board for children and teens on the American Diabetes Association’s website.
I am active in my community: writing letters/articles to newspapers about diabetes and upcoming fundraising events and having information booths at local community functions. I am in the beginning stages of starting a local support group for children in my area with diabetes. I also volunteer at the Veteran’s Home, for Relay for Life and for Camp Possibilities. I am on the leadership committee for two church youth groups and I direct the children’s choir at my church.
I have had the opportunity to represent Delaware as an advocate in the last three Call to Congress events. It is so powerful and inspiring to be part of a large group of amazing people coming together with a common mission. I also do advocacy work in my community. Every year, during local festivals, I set up a booth with information about diabetes, the American Diabetes Association, and ways to get involved.
I search out opportunities to speak to the community and local officials about diabetes, healthy choices and ways to help. Another way I advocate is through Step Out events. As teen ambassador, I have had the opportunity to spread messages about diabetes through radio and TV public service announcements and sometimes even billboards. As National Youth Advocate I hope to be able to even expand this role. I write to senators and congressmen to discuss issues important to people with diabetes and I take every opportunity to speak to them about upcoming legislation. Writing letters to the newspaper editors about diabetes and any upcoming fundraisers I am holding gives me a chance to keep diabetes in the local public eye. The more people know about diabetes and the effects it has on people, the more people can help Stop Diabetes!
I have written articles and have been the interview subject for many articles about diabetes, medical technology and volunteerism for several different magazines such as Delaware Today, Odyssey, and Weekly Reader. I have enjoyed these opportunities to reach so many readers, young and old!
Do you know a lot of other teenagers who spend their time volunteering? Why do you think they do/don’t volunteer?
I know many teens who volunteer in some capacity or another, either through National Honor Society, Scouts, 4H, church youth group or other causes. But I think the reason that some teens do not volunteer is because they cannot find an outlet that matches their interests for which they would want to volunteer their time and efforts. I encourage my friends to always join my team and I include them in my volunteer endeavors. It makes it even more fun and rewarding when you work with friends to accomplish a common goal!
If you could say one thing about diabetes, what would it be?
I’ve made it my goal to ensure that others know that just because their diabetes makes them unique, that doesn’t mean that they are different, or less, than everyone else. I won’t let diabetes define or confine me.
I will never be “a diabetic.” I am Madi Dodge: a singer, an actor, an artist, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a student, a leader, an advocate, and a whole lot of other things… who just happens to have diabetes.
Behind every volunteer is a grateful staff (team or person) who knows that their work would have been impossible without that volunteer’s generous contribution of time and energy. Here is what Lecia Imbery, Associate Director, Government Affairs & Advocacy had to say about Madi’s many contributions to the American Diabetes Association:
Madi’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious, and her dedication to advocacy and the Association is inspirational. In addition to her many roles as a volunteer, she’s been a tireless advocate – attending three Call to Congress events, writing to and meeting with her Members of Congress, writing letters to her local newspapers and recruiting other advocates. She truly exemplifies the best qualities of a National Youth Advocate.
Thanks to Madi for sharing her endless energy with the diabetes community and cause. She is one of the many stories of inspiration in the movement to Stop Diabetes. You can read more updates from Madi on her Planet D blog.