Local nonprofit to host fundraiser for diabetes awareness, support programs

Published 9:02 am Tuesday, October 26, 2021

DOWAGIAC — A new, local nonprofit is preparing for its first-ever fundraiser.

MI Life in Numbers — a nonprofit organization created by Dowagiac resident Heather Olson to support and empower people living with type one diabetes — is hosting its first silent auction from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Elk’s Lodge, 300 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac.

“I was talking with the board of directors this summer, and we decided that we needed to do something to raise funds and also spread awareness in the community,” Olson said. “Something to get people to come out and see us, meet us and talk about our programs and different things we’re doing, and how to get involved.”

Tickets cost $20 in advance by calling Olson at (269) 357-9361 to purchase via credit card or at the door, with proceeds going toward funding counseling and future programming.

A graduate of Dowagiac Union High School, Olson attended Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan where she graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in health communication and also nonprofit administration. After returning home to Dowagiac, Olson — who was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of seven — wanted to use her newly-obtained skills to give back to the community by starting a nonprofit geared toward helping people in southwest Michigan living with the disease.

According to Olson, the name MI Life in Numbers was inspired by the daily diabetic task of monitoring blood sugar and counting carbohydrates each meal. The organization offers services including advocate programs, counseling services, empowerment groups and more.

“We’ll also have different meet-ups just to get people involved,” she said. “So, [we will be] doing a healthy cooking class, having a pizza party or doing a painting and canvas to get diabetics together from this area and be like, hey, like ‘we’re living with it too. We’re all normal, you can live your normal life.’”

Olson hopes her nonprofit not only helps those diagnosed with diabetes but their families as well.

“It’s so hard on a family when you get diagnosed,” she said. “I was seven, and so it changed my life, but it also changed their life because they have to help manage everything and make sure I’m doing it correctly and whatnot. That’s why I want to help not only kid and teenagers but also their parents. Because I know my mom was like ‘I would love it if something like this were around when you were diagnosed’. My parents are my inspiration to do it, because when you’re little, it’s just hard on everyone regardless of your age because it changes your life.”

In addition to her nonprofit work, Olson is also an assistant coach with the Dowagiac volleyball team. While balancing nonprofit work and coaching is no easy task, Olson has enjoyed every step of the process.

“There’s a lot of stuff to learn, but it’s also very interesting to know how nonprofits work,” she said. I’m also super excited because there are different parts of it, like grant writing, that I’ll get into. I just feel like it’s been very eye-opening and like to think that this was my dream in college and now I’m like living it out is really cool and it’s super rewarding because I’m helping other people. Even at my volleyball games, I’ll see a girl and I’ll be like, ‘hey, here’s my nonprofit,’ and so I’m slowly touching each person’s life.”

Olson thanked her friends, family and everyone who has supported her throughout the process and said the responses she has received from the community have been positive.

“It’s been really great,” she said. “I think a lot of people are coming together. I just went to a couple of businesses yesterday, and one lady was like ‘oh look, here’s my pump. I’ve seen your posts and everything,’ so everyone is really excited, and I hope that it grows and we get more people involved because I think it’s really great to give back, and then get those people involved and make them feel like they’re not alone in fighting diabetes.”