I strongly believe that finding a fun and supportive diabetes community is one of the best things you can do – both for your social life and diabetes management.
That’s why I am a big fan of Connected In Motion, a non-profit organization that creates outdoor events for people with type 1 diabetes.
I recently had a chance to interview CIM’s Executive Director Jen Hanson about why she is so passionate about CIM, how to find a good support group, and the events that Connected In Motion have coming up in Canada and The United States.
Tell us more about yourself and your connection to diabetes.
I’ve grown up, pretty much my whole entire life, with diabetes. In fact, I sometimes look at that as a blessing in disguise. I didn’t ever know anything different. For me, I’m never comparing anything to ‘normal’ because normal for me is life with Type 1.
I was really lucky to grow up in a family that was always moving – I played countless sports as a kid and think I might have spent more time in the arena that in my actual home (I have four younger brothers and sisters who also grew up playing every sport under the sun.) We also spent a lot of our weekends camping or visiting the cottage.
When I was 8, my parents gave me the chance to head to a summer camp for kids with diabetes, Camp Huronda in Ontario, Canada. I spent the next 18 summers of my life there, moving through the ranks from camper, to counsellor, to ropes course staff, pottery instructor, and eventually program director. At Camp Huronda, I met some of my closest and best friends and learned the value of community for people with diabetes.
I’ve since stayed heavily involved with the diabetes community – I’ve been involved with Connected in Motion since 2009, work with Children with Diabetes, have volunteered as a faculty member with the International Diabetes Federation’s Young Leaders in Diabetes, and am a Global Ambassador with Beyond Type 1.
I also do lots outside of diabetes too! I take time off each year to guide for ALIVE Outdoors, helping to connect youth with nature, and travel/backpack/canoe in my spare time whenever I can find someone to come along.
What inspired you to become involved with Connected In Motion?
When I was moving on from summer camp in 2008, I was introduced to Chloe Vance. Chloe was diagnosed with Type 1 when she was 18 and went 10 years without meeting anyone else living with diabetes. She was a guide and a teacher and an adventurer and had recently come back from travelling in Australia and New Zealand, where she had met a group of active, adventurous Type 1s. Her world was changed!
She came back to find that same community here in Canada and realized that it didn’t exist. Not being one to sit around and complain, Chloe started the ball rolling and founded Connected in Motion in September 2008 as a place for other adventure-seeking, outdoor-loving, ‘sit in a circle at a hospital and talk about diabetes’-detesting adults with Type 1.
I became involved with Connected in Motion in January 2009 and never looked back. I was completing my Masters research at the time, looking at the role of community and adventure in Type 1 diabetes and the fit was perfect.
I’m now working full-time with Connected in Motion as the Executive Director (Chloe is living in Canmore, Alberta working full-time as a teacher at the local high school – A job that couldn’t be turned down, especially in the early days of a start-up nonprofit.) I love building community, making connections, and learning how we can help others connect and live better lives with Type 1. No two days are the same and I love every moment of it.
Can you tell us more about your events and how people can participate?
There are several ways to get involved in CIM programs. Our three main pillars of programming include Day Events, Slipstream Weekends, and Adventure Programs. Whether you’re brand new to, or a veteran of community, sport, or adventure, there are programs that will work for you. In fact, many of our programs provide options for beginners and experts built within the same program!
The core of what we do are Slipstream Weekends – Think, camps for adults with Type 1. These are opportunities to meet some new friends, connect with old ones, and a place where experts are your peers. We bring in rockstars from the Type 1 community to participate in the weekend and find ways for Slipstreamers to get hands on with their advice, thoughts, and info. And, of course, we get to get outside and take advantage of all that there is to explore around us.
What is the best way to meet other people with diabetes if you live somewhere where CIM don’t have events?
We’ve been working hard to answer this question. The CIM team is currently working on rolling out a Chapter Model for our programs. We’ll be looking for Chapter Leaders to join the CIM Team and help to bring programs together in your local community. We’ll do the background work, and you’ll be the face and facilitator of the programs. More on that soon!
If you would like learn more about becoming a chapter leader, please contact Heather Gomez, CIM’s Community Outreach Coordinator at [email protected].
There are also some really great meet-ups happening throughout North America! One great way to learn about what is going on locally is to ask your local pump rep – Pump companies are usually great supporters of community programs and will have an idea of how to get involved!
And, of course, the diabetes online community. Download the Beyond Type 1 app, join the Type 1 Diabetic Athletes Facebook group, or throw a question out on twitter with the hashtag #doc to connect with others who have been there, done that.