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In Their Own Words: Why They Volunteer

Changing the world – one opportunity at a time

Have you ever volunteered or thought about volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about? Whether participating in an annual awareness/fundraising event or putting in time every week with their organization of choice, these advocates share their passionate commitment to the causes they care about most.

Moira McCarthy: Why volunteer?


“How does one decide when, how, and why to volunteer? The answers are as unique as each person,” explained Moira McCarthy, d-parent and self-described “uber-volunteer”. “Some of us have many hours to give and a desire to make volunteering almost a career. Others have just a few hours a year. Most may fit somewhere in between, but there is almost always an opportunity that might work for you.”

Moira McCarthy

Moira said she gets more from volunteering than she gives. “In my case, volunteering over the past fifteen years as I was raising a child living with type 1 diabetes has brought me friendship, support, education, high-level contacts, and access to up-to-the-minute information on life with diabetes and progress toward a cure. It has brought me a large network of friends who ‘get it’ and are there for me at any hour and on any day. But most of all, it has brought me something more valuable than all of that. … volunteering makes me feel empowered, as though I have moved things forward in this world.”

Read more: Moira shares her story and tips for finding a mission that matches your passion.

Dobie Maxwell: Giving back

Dobie Maxwell

Touring standup comedian Dobie Maxwell, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2011, said he believes in treating others as he would like to be treated. “If someone called me up and asked if I would do a walk for someone for awareness, I would say yes,” he said. “I would want it done for me. I’ve always been one to volunteer for charity causes whenever I can. If they have a fundraiser, I’ll donate my time and do a comedy show. I usually take more than I give in those kinds of situations. I have never once regretted donating myself for charity.”

Dobie, who participated in an American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® event in 2013, said he appreciated spending time with others touched by diabetes. “I heard a lot of stories that day about how people’s lives changed after their diagnoses,” he said. “We talked about how we didn’t even know what a carbohydrate was until we were diagnosed and now it’s the first thing we do; we read all the labels of everything we eat. I exchanged stories with people I didn’t even know. In a weird way, living with diabetes develops a kinship with strangers. They’re strangers, but they have similar diabetes needs, so they feel like friends immediately.”

Read more: Dobie talks more about raising awareness – and what’s funny about diabetes.

Thom Solo: Never too young to make a difference

A Thom Solo shoe design. (Photo courtesy of Thom Solo.)
A Thom Solo shoe design. (Photo courtesy of Thom Solo.)

Designer Thom Solo creates iconic footwear for clients like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, but he made his first impact on the world when he was just 9 years old and single-handedly came up with the concept for the JDRF Children’s Congress, now one of the most recognized diabetes advocacy events in the world.

“My mom was going to DC again to advocate for me and I looked at her and said, ‘Why you? Us kids with a celebrity could do better,” he recalled. “Who is going to look at a sweet little face saying I need help and say no?’”

Thom and his mother, along with 150 other kids, attended the first Children’s Congress in 1999 – and Thom got his first taste of celebrity, being the center of the event. “It was kind of like being Harry Potter in the first movie,” he says. “Like, I could tell people were kind of whispering: ‘There’s Tommy Solo.’”

But the event also gave him “a sense of normalcy. Every kid around me had exactly the same things going on as I did. It was amazing.”

Read more: Thom says his story is all about balancing the creative with the pragmatic.

Quinn Nystrom: An organization of her own

Quinn Nystrom

Quinn was 10 years old when her 5-year-old brother Will was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “I chose to commit my life to helping however I could to help find a cure for diabetes,” she said. “At that age, that meant going around to classrooms in elementary school to help educate other kids about the disease and knocking on neighborhood doors, raising funds for the local diabetes walk.”

Two years later, Quinn herself was diagnosed with T1. “Diabetes has given me a purpose and a passion to live each day of my life for the better,” she said. “I ended up redoubling my efforts to want to do anything I could to help find a cure for this disease and to help the quality of life of people living with diabetes.”

In 2013, Quinn founded Dateline Diabetes, which provides support for young people living with type 1 diabetes, including scholarships to diabetes events. “When I went to diabetes camp and met other people my age, that’s where my perspective on diabetes really changed,” Quinn said. “I started Dateline Diabetes to help young people to be able to attend a camp, a retreat, or, say, the Friends for Life conference and have the opportunity to meet and engage with other people with diabetes to help change their perspective.”

Read more: Quinn shares a lifetime of volunteer experiences – and how they changed her, as she worked to change the world.

You may also enjoy:

Making Diabetes Fundraisers Fun

Project Blue November

Maxine Phillips Helps Raise Diabetes Awareness

Dobie Maxwell, Thom Solo and Quinn Nystrom received no compensation for their interviews on Discuss Diabetes and The DX. Moira McCarthy is a paid contributor to The DX. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewees and/or contributors, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

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