One of most essential aspects of JDRF’s work revolves around the T1D community itself — the Outreach Volunteers who generously contribute their time to providing support for families struggling to cope with a life-altering diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes. The Outreach program has served as a crucial line of support, as its volunteers provide emotional support and guidance while also helping families and individuals to become acquainted with JDRF in a meaningful way.
For many families and adults living with T1D, these volunteers provide essential information, advice and an understanding of the challenges people face at different stages within the T1D journey. Equally important is their role in establishing emotional support; by offering comforting words and describing their own experiences, they reassure members of the T1D community that they are not alone as they learn to adapt to life with T1D.
The program matches families and individuals with Outreach volunteers, who work to establish early relationships with the patients by introducing them to JDRF’s resources, opportunities, and support networks. Outreach volunteers keep our T1D community informed by sending update emails, providing invitations to chapter meetings and events, and identifying opportunities to engage in advocacy work or fundraisers.
Oscar and Nicki Pena are two Outreach volunteers, committed to supporting newly diagnosed families. When their daughter, Rylie, was diagnosed with Type 1Diabetes at the age of 13, their family experienced firsthand the shock and confusion of such a life changing diagnosis. However, they managed to find comfort in the stories of other T1D families who are also living each day with T1D. In their search for information and advice, they turned to their local JDRF chapter. Oscar and Nicki shared that they quickly found that JDRF provided “support, terrific events, and all the education we needed to move forward”.
Years after Rylie’s diagnosis, the Pena family decided to repay the support they received from JDRF by joining the Outreach program. Their hope was that other families would similarly be able to find comfort and advice from their experiences. Currently, their volunteer work extends from their home in Oakdale to cover Modesto, Ripon, Salida, Turlock, and Sonora. Oscar and Nicki’s commitments include delivering Bags of Hope, which contain supplies and information for newly diagnosed individuals. Their daughter, now 21, often participates in this program as well, serving as an inspiration to parents struggling to imagine their child’s future with Type 1 Diabetes.
The Pena’s encourage other families and adults living with T1D to engage in the JDRF Outreach program. They believe it plays a vital role in assisting families not only during the early days of diagnosis, but it brings people together to become a part of the T1D community and the JDRF family with the promise that no one is in this alone. To others considering becoming Outreach volunteers, they advise:
Don’t hesitate to get involved, and don’t worry about having all the answers regarding T1D. We are all learning every day about the latest technology and lifestyle changes to support our children as they grow into adulthood, and to support adults who are newly diagnosed. Every member of the T1D community has something to offer a newly diagnosed family — just talking, listening, and being available to families provides comfort and inspiration.
We would like to thank the Pena family, as well as our other amazing Outreach volunteers, for their contributions to our T1D community! If you would like more information on how you can join the JDRF Outreach program, please contact Elizabeth Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Lorena Bergstrom