Volunteer Voyage


Since I decided to add my voice to this blog, I’ve been
thinking about how I started volunteering for JDRF.  Our son Max was diagnosed at the age of four
back in 1997.  At that time, I had a full
time job working for a behavioral psychologist at the University of Buffalo,
coordinating a study on childhood obesity. 
After Max was diagnosed, I told my husband that I wanted to make some
changes, big changes, so that I would be able to stay at home and be there for
Max, especially as he got ready to go to Kindergarten.  Within a year and a half, we relocated to the
Detroit area
for my husband’s new job–the job that enabled me to quit mine.

Once we got settled into our new home and Max’s new school,
I felt like I wanted something to do to fill some time when I wasn’t on a field
trip!  So I called the local JDRF chapter
to see if they could use a volunteer. 
The question of “why JDRF” is an easy one to answer.  It was, and still is, an organization
uniquely focused on Type 1 diabetes.  I
made that first call based on JDRF’s good reputation and through my
involvement, I have found that reputation is deserved.  I also love the fact that JDRF was founded by
parents who were not satisfied with merely learning to live with diabetes.  They wanted a cure.

I will confess that at the time I called JDRF, I was
expecting to help out in a very behind the scenes way, maybe stuffing envelopes
or something equally mundane.  I was
perfectly happy blending in with the woodwork, so I was quite surprised when I
was linked up to the head of Government Relations for our chapter.  I was further surprised when she began to ask
me to make phone calls to federal legislators, then to attend Promise to
Remember Me meetings
—and I did it!

When I talk to new advocates or newly diagnosed families
today, I tell them there are so many different levels of involvement available
through JDRF and every single one can have a major impact on the lives of our
kids and families living with Type 1.  Signing
up as an advocate and making a phone call or sending an email to urge a
legislator to vote for our funding is so simple and so effective.  Our voices helped to pass the Special
Diabetes Program renewal
recently! 
Taking it a step further and attending a Promise to Remember Me meeting
or a New Member Outreach meeting is a chance to educate our members of Congress
and empowers our community when they see that they really have a chance to
personally impact public policy.  Joining
the local chapter’s GR committee will help to bring advocates further along the
spectrum to organizing meetings and educating other advocates.  The possibilities are all there for anyone
from the timid to the bold!

I personally enjoy the feeling of being in a room–whether
it is at a board meeting, a big gathering in Washington, DC
or at a Promise meeting—with other advocates and volunteers and realize we’re
all in this together.  There has been no
paid job in my history that has given me such a feeling of fulfillment.  I see tangible results from my work with
JDRF, from better technologies currently helping my son care for himself, to
support from the federal government for our research.

I encourage everyone out there to sign up as an advocate and
just start by getting your feet a little bit wet.  Where you want to go from there is up to you
and we’ll be there to encourage and support you along the way.  Together we will find a cure for Type 1
diabetes.

Please take a minute to tell me about your experiences volunteering for the Type 1 community in the comments below.

ByJillGeisendorfer