Local woman shares passion for diabetes outreach with Dowagiac Rotary Club

Published 9:10 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

DOWAGIAC – After her own experience living with Type 1 diabetes, one local woman is on a mission to help others with the disease.

Dowagiac resident Heather Olson, founder of diabetes outreach nonprofit MI Life in Numbers, shared with Dowagiac Rotary Club members last Thursday the story of why reaching out to others with the disease has become her passion.

Olson, who graduated from Dowagiac in 2016 and also coaches JV volleyball at the high school, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of eight. Because of her experience growing up as a child with diabetes, as well as managing it as an adult, Olson created MI Life in Numbers as a way to provide support for other patients and families affected by the disease.

“My diagnosis was hard on me, but it was also hard on my family,” she said. “It was a whole new thing we had to manage – not just for me, but my parents, too – so I wanted to start the nonprofit to help other families and other diabetics who were going through the same thing.”

MI Life in Numbers offers empowerment groups, an advocacy program and counseling services with the goal of providing a sense of community among those affected by Type 1 diabetes. In the advocate program, the nonprofit pairs up people who have been diagnosed with the disease, as well as their loved ones in an effort to create a network of support.

For the counseling services, the nonprofit has teamed up with a restorative counseling firm out of Kalamazoo to hosts meetings with a licensed therapist free of charge.

“It’s just a place where people can talk about any struggles they’re having, or successes,” Olson said. “We want to kind of make it a positive experience where people feel welcomed and have someplace to turn to.”

According to Olson, people with diabetes can be subject to something called “diabetes burnout,” which is when people become exhausted from managing their condition.

“We just want to make sure their mental health is taken care of, as well as their physical health,” Olson said. “Sometimes we have events where we focus on our diabetes, and other days where it’s just like ‘hey, let’s hang out and have some pizza and just be together,’ because we don’t always want to talk about our diabetes.”

Olson said the nonprofit is always looking for new ways to help people with diabetes, including reaching out to area schools.

“I’m hoping that maybe we can get in [the schools] like once a month and meet with kids and just provide the extra support,” she said. “Especially because of COVID, their worlds are kind of crazy right now, so I think that they need the extra support and I’m willing to go in and just be that – be a mentor in their life.”

MI Life in Numbers plans to host a golf outing, as well as a silent auction sometime this summer to raise funds.  For more information, visit milifeinnumbers.com.