Why I Volunteer to Stop Diabetes – Part 1

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week and we at the American Diabetes Association are celebrating all the people who have dedicated their passion, skills and time to our mission over the last 75 years. Today we hear from two remarkable volunteers, who each contribute in their own way!

What motivates YOU to volunteer to Stop Diabetes®?

Deborah with her great-grandson at her local Step Out walk.

Deborah with her great-grandson at her local Step Out walk.

Minister Deborah E. Holmes
St. Louis, Mo.

Why do I volunteer for the American Diabetes Association? Because, in my opinion, it’s the medium standing between life and death. I find it so rewarding to equip and empower people with information and everyday tools to help them live with and manage this disease.

Without diabetes education, my mother died from complications of type 2 diabetes at age 69, four years after she was diagnosed. She was never introduced to anyone, outside of her primary care physician, who could help her live with and manage the disease.

In contrast, my husband has been “living empowered” with type 2 for more than 15 years. This is all because of the Association’s expansive educational programs and tools. Education makes all the difference.

The Association has always been about making this difference. When I think of their 75-year history, I am forever grateful for an organization whose determination to find a cure through research has given hope to millions of people—people who might otherwise have remained hopeless against a disease that once had no form of treatment other than starvation. Seventy-five years of progress toward a diabetes cure has provided an outlet for people to learn how to live longer, healthier lives in spite of a diabetes diagnosis.

All this research, education and advocacy is made possible through the generosity of people like you and me. We give willingly of our time and treasure to ensure that the Association’s great work continues.

After my mother’s death, I was determined to learn more and help people living with this disease. I decided that no one, especially in the African-American community, should have to live with diabetes and not know how to manage it. I just started with that passion, back in 2001, and it took me places I never would have imagined.

I approached the American Diabetes Association booth at a health fair and asked how I could get involved. Soon I was meeting with the local Program Director. Turned out my roles as a minister and manager of a Christian radio station were perfect for reaching people, primarily through the church community. Every time I interact with people who learn something from my presentations, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m achieving my goal of giving them what my mother lacked: diabetes education. I volunteer to honor her memory.

I can’t talk about my relationship with the Association without mentioning Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes®! For 13 years I’ve proudly led my “Bab’s Steppers” team to honor my mother, Barbara G. Moore. Last year, my team of 30 raised the fifth-highest amount at the St. Louis walk—and we’re gearing up to do even better in 2015. Will YOU Step Out with me this year?

Dave (dressed as a vampire in honor of the theme “Diabetes Bites”) had the pleasure of kissing Remi the Piglet after his team won the 2013 Kiss A Pig competition.

Dave (dressed as a vampire in honor of the theme “Diabetes Bites”) had the pleasure of kissing Remi the Piglet after his team won the 2013 Kiss A Pig competition.

Dave Smith
Savannah, Ga.

Why do I volunteer for the American Diabetes Association? Because I understand the seriousness of diabetes. I also understand what the Association has done—IS doing—to improve the lives of the millions of people living with diabetes. I am one of the many beneficiaries of this good work.

The Association’s 75th anniversary is cause for attention and celebration. This organization was created by medical professionals who recognized the need for work in the areas of diabetes education and awareness, and the organization has grown into a volunteer-powered force for good for the community of people affected by this disease.

I am one of the fortunate few, having lived almost 60 years with diabetes with no significant complications. However, I understand the life-altering and disabling complications that afflict so many people with diabetes, despite their best efforts to stay healthy.

I have lived with diabetes long enough to take a long view. I am much more interested in advances that will allow me to stay healthy and strong now than I am seeing the prospect of a cure—as attractive as a cure is. Only the American Diabetes Association is working on both fronts: searching for a cure for diabetes while also helping those living with diabetes preserve their health now, so they can use a cure when it does come.

In my lifetime I have seen so many changes in diabetes care, and along the way I discovered many of these advances came about because of the Association’s work. The home blood glucose meter was a revolution in diabetes care, allowing patients to really take control and avoid adverse complications. The insulin pump changed everything for children with diabetes and active people who have always struggled with episodes of high and low blood glucose. Micro-laser surgery is now used to arrest diabetic retinopathy, helping thousands of people preserve their vision, avoid disability and enjoy an improved quality of life. And I have seen many advances in insulin; many kinds are available now, so diabetes care may be tailored to achieve the best control possible.

All of these improvements were produced by scientists working under grants funded by the American Diabetes Association. That’s why I became an enthusiastic volunteer.

About seven years ago, I joined a Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® team to raise money for our local event. After two successful years, the captain of my Step Out team invited me to join the Savannah-area Community Volunteer Leadership Board. In that capacity, I learned more about what the Association is doing nationally and locally and became even more motivated. My third year on the Board I was named Advocacy Chair, and the following year I became Chair of the Leadership Board. I am now serving my fourth and final year in that position.

I think my own experience is typical: Once I became available and willing, there was always work to do to advance the mission of the Association. The more I volunteered, the more I saw opportunities to make better use of my talents. Such as . . . pig-kissing?!

Yes, in fact, my proudest moment as an Association volunteer is from Kiss A Pig, our largest local fundraiser. I formed a team of Savannah lawyers, and we won the 2013 competition after raising more than $43,000 for the Association, more money than any other team. (The whole campaign raised more than $238,000 that year!) I was rewarded with the opportunity to kiss a pig—pigs being the original source of insulin used to treat humans with diabetes.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Association, I encourage you to contact the nearest local office, or a member of the Community Volunteer Leadership Board if you know one. Simply ask: “What needs doing?” Jump in and be helpful. There is always room for a motivated volunteer to make a difference.

We’re grateful to these volunteers for helping us make life better for people with diabetes in their communities! Want to join them? Sign up at our online Volunteer Center.

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This entry was posted in About Us, Advocacy, Family, Food and Fitness, Life with Diabetes, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Red Strider, Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, Stop Diabetes, Volunteer Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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