Why I Volunteer to Stop Diabetes – Part 2

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®?

connie 1Connie Lafuente
San Diego, Calif.

Why do I volunteer for the American Diabetes Association? Because I have seen the devastation that diabetes has caused my community firsthand. This disease must be stopped.

During my association with the California Department of Public Health, Office of Binational Border Health, I became aware of the seriousness of this disease in the Latino population, where type 2 diabetes is a major problem and on the rise. Currently, I work for Project Concern International U.S. & Border Programs for the CDC REACH program educating women of reproductive age on preventing chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke.  Every day I see the pain and suffering of this population. I see the lack of knowledge, of access to health care and of resources to cover the cost of medication.

Prevention has become my passion. We just can’t let this disease continue to cause such unnecessary sorrow. With the right information and resources, people can learn how to live well, lose weight and prevent or delay type 2. The challenge is getting that information out there to a diverse community in which language barriers and lack of financial resources pose unique challenges.

I also worry about diabetes for my own family, especially my children, as statistics show that one in three adult Americans will have diabetes by 2050 if present trends continue. I find myself bringing my work home, teaching them about healthful eating and exercise.

My work with the American Diabetes Association began in 2010, when I was invited to join the Mission Delivery Committee here in San Diego. I served as chair of that committee, and then on the local Community Leadership Board. Since then I’ve raised funds to support Por Tu Familia and I’ve organized community trainings to help extend the Association’s reach, particularly among migrant groups in San Diego and Imperial County. It’s really all about connections!

It feels great to work with an organization that is available to help anyone who needs it, no matter their background or type of diabetes. The Association’s programs and services are so valuable and they make such a difference. I have seen young children with type 1 diabetes struggle to understand their disease—then watch as they come alive through a week at American Diabetes Association Diabetes Camp, learning to self-manage and meeting others just like them. Through the Safe at School campaign, we advocate to make sure these same children have access to the proper diabetes care at school and enjoy the same opportunities as their peers. And through millions of dollars in funded research, we’re uncovering the clues that will ultimately lead to a cure.

It’s important that we give of ourselves, so the Association can keep touching the lives of people with diabetes. Many choose to give money, which is of course wonderful and appreciated. Others can give their time and skills.

Volunteering is easier than you think! It doesn’t need to take much time. The trick is to just get started and make it part of your daily life. You already have your networks and your routines, so find a way to make volunteering fit in naturally. Diabetes affects us all—chances are you know someone who lives with it—so we need to come together to be part of the solution.

I guarantee you have something to give!

Brett and his grandson Carter

Brett and his grandson Carter

Brett Kassing
Riverton, Utah

Why do I volunteer for the American Diabetes Association? It all started about 11 years ago with Tour de Cure®. The Salt Lake City ride was in its infancy, only 80 or 90 riders. While I knew a couple of people with diabetes, more than anything I enjoyed the organized rides, the chance to get out there with some fellow cyclists.

And then a little boy named Carter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That 3-year-old was my grandson. Suddenly, I understood how when one person develops diabetes, the entire family is affected. Suddenly those bike rides—and the power of the American Diabetes Association—took on new meaning for me. Carter has been my driving force ever since.

The local Tour de Cure coordinator thanked me for participating and asked if I would join the planning committee for the following year. I agreed! I served for a few years, then graduated to committee chair. In that time the Salt Lake City ride became a half-million-dollar fundraiser for the Association, which was just incredible.

Once I got involved with this mission, my role just grew and grew. I joined the area Community Leadership Board and became chair. Then I was invited to serve on the national Community & Volunteer Development Committee, which I did proudly. These days, I am a coach for new and prospective volunteers in the fight to Stop Diabetes.

While I am proud of all the people my efforts have helped, I like to say that I have benefited the most from volunteering. Along the way, I have learned so much and worked with so many great people.

My 11 years with this cause have given me such an appreciation for what the Association has accomplished in the last 75 years. From the availability of insulin and home blood glucose testing to pumps and continuous glucose monitors, Carter’s life is so much more comfortable than that of people who lived with diabetes in the past. I wish for a cure like everyone else, but in the meantime I am so grateful for these advances. Imagine what the next 10 years will bring!

Carter is now 13. He doesn’t know a life without diabetes, but it sure doesn’t slow him down. He perseveres through the challenges diabetes throws his way. He’s an accomplished athlete who travels for baseball tournaments. When he was younger, he served as the Youth Advocate for our Tour de Cure. I’ll never forget the first time he showed up, sporting his Red Rider jersey and ready to ride 25 miles with me, and he was just in awe at the crowd. “Wow,” Carter said, “all these people are riding for me?” And in a way, they were!

If you want to get involved, just do it! Let your passion guide you. I like to spread the word wherever I go.

Just last week my wife and I were out to dinner, and next to us sat another couple with their grandson. The way they were analyzing the menu and talking with the waiter, it quickly became clear to me that this little boy had diabetes. I gently approached them, only to learn that he had been diagnosed just four days prior. He had just gotten out of the hospital, and the whole family had this “deer in headlights” look now that they were out in the real world, needing to count carbs and test blood and dose insulin.

I know that look, and I know that feeling. I told them about the Association and all the resources the organization has to offer. I told them about Tour de Cure. And I ended with: “However you choose to get involved, I promise you won’t regret it. It’ll do nothing but help you, your family, your community and all the people living with diabetes.”

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, Caregivers, Complications, Family, High-Risk Populations, Life with Diabetes, National Volunteer Appreciation Week, Stop Diabetes, Tour de Cure, Volunteer Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why I Volunteer to Stop Diabetes – Part 2

  1. B.J. Rassam says:

    It’s great to hear of these stories of volunteerism.

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