One Wednesday each month, regardless of the weather conditions (hey, we live in a part of the country known for epic winters) or what else we’ve got going on in our personal family life, we head out to the Sugar Free Gang. We rely on the support and education that comes from the monthly JDRF Sugar Free Gang meetings. During these sessions the sweet ones go with educators who do activities with them and the parents stay with guest speakers. However, there’s more to these ‘meeting of the minds’ than just education. It’s not without a little sweetness.The time is valuable, really valuable. First, as a parent getting to hear from other parents with a similar experience offers support. I love the “Oh, I’m not crazy” or the “It’s not just me” moments during the meetings. Also, being able to ask questions of professionals helps to increase our understanding of this condition. Another perk has been learning about some of the really cutting edge tech that is enhancing the lives of people living with this condition. Did you know they are coming out with a Continuous Glucose Monitor that is the size of an M&M or that the external pancreas is a real thing? It’s informative! I have to admit, the one disappointment for me has been the lack of diversity. I wonder about this a lot. Are our people aware of these meetings? Do they know what the meetings offer in terms of support? Is the meeting space in an accessible location making it easy for more people to attend? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but it can be discouraging. I once had someone, a reader of this blog actually, tell me that she went to a meeting or two but stopped going because she didn’t feel represented in that space. I get it. I’ll talk about our experience at family diabetes camp in a blog post soon.
A and my son L-O-V-E this monthly time to connect with other kids who know what it’s like to live life as a diabetic (or in my son’s case as a sibling of someone with T1D). They are both totally unfazed by the limited diversity because ultimately, they find similarities in any context. It’s not complicated for them. It seems like they can find some type of affinity with any other child. In A’s words “We are just alike because we both have diabetes”. I love how simple it is to them. Our world could learn a lot just by listening to children.
So folks, I gotta break it to you… the Sugar Free Gang it is not sugar free at all. The kiddos get snacks at the end of each session, usually a 15 carb snack. Also, as is expected, each meeting is full of sweet little (and big) ones! After 433 days as a parent of a child with T1D I can say that this monthly meeting is a cherished time to bring together people who are inherently different but share one crucial commonality… this experience of type 1 diabetes. Our sweet ones need it but so do we. Diversity would inevitably make the meeting that much sweeter. So, if you haven’t connected with your local JDRF may I suggest you take that step? Whether you’re thrilled with the faces you see or not, it’s worth your time. Shout out to you JDRF!