Imagine a tornado ripping through your community. Now imagine that you have lost everything, including vital medical supplies. That’s just what happened to many families in the Tuscaloosa, AL, area in 2011. Those families are extremely grateful that Michelle Crouse cared enough to help. She says, “After the storm took its toll on our city, I could not imagine surviving only to discover that you are without your diabetes supplies.” Together with JDRF’s Alabama Chapter and a team of volunteers, Michelle collected insulin and supplies for those in need. For more than a year, she maintained a small diabetes help center as part of the rebuilding effort.
Michelle weathered a different kind of storm 10 years ago when her son Cameron was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age two. “When you live with type 1 diabetes, every choice you make has some consequence—eating, drinking, exercising, not exercising, the list goes on and on,” she says. “People with type 1 diabetes always have to have a plan.”
Michelle explains, “Volunteering for JDRF and working towards a cure is important to my family. We work very hard to provide support to newly diagnosed families and raise awareness in our community.” With that kind of spirit, Michelle also meets and speaks with newly diagnosed families, personally delivering Bags of Hope, offering a compassionate ear and comfort of experience. She says, “I want people who are living with type 1 diabetes to know how hard others are working on their behalf. In the many hats I wear for JDRF, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t encounter another person working hard towards our end goal. Researchers, staff, advocates, volunteers, family, and friends are so devoted and committed in our path to our cure.”
A year after Cameron’s diagnosis, when he was three, the Crouse family attended its first Promise to Remember Me Meeting. “I remember feeling so empowered by this experience. I felt some sense of control over this disease by speaking directly to one of the most powerful senators in Congress. I wish that every person whose life is touched by type 1 diabetes, just one time, could feel that sense of empowerment.”
It makes sense that Michelle has served as the Government Relations Volunteer for the Alabama Chapter and is presently a member of the Advocacy Grassroots Leadership Team. She works hard to ensure representation of the Alabama T1D community and to inspire constituents to attend each Promise Meeting. Sara Hood, the chapter’s development manager, says, “Michelle is very knowledgeable about T1D and JDRF’s mission. She is consistently calling upon our Members of Congress, setting up meetings, and recruiting volunteers to be advocates on behalf of JDRF. She is the chapter’s voice at JDRF’s Government Day in Washington, D.C.”
Today, Cameron is a charismatic 13-year-old who has inherited his mother’s fierce commitment to the fight against T1D, and to advocacy in particular. He has been attending Promise Meetings since age four, and was one of two Alabama delegates at JDRF 2013 Children’s Congress. His approach to speaking with Members of Congress is simple. “I want them to see how much a cure for type 1 diabetes would affect so many kids’ lives that are just like mine,” he says. Like mother, like son.