My brain has been swirling since I returned from California. Trying to figure out what to say about the Medtronic Diabetes Advocates Forum has been difficult. There’s so much I want to say, I’m having trouble deciding where to start.

Kim, Meri, Sara, Kerri, Christel, Catherine, Jacquie, Chris, and Heather have all already written about it. Stop now and go read their posts. REALLY. Go do it. I love what they had to say. And if I repeat something they said, I apologize. It’s unintentional.

There was so much information presented and discussed, and so many fabulous ideas tossed around that it’s impossible for me to recap everything. I was too busy listening and trying to absorb it all to take decent notes. What I do what to tell you is what I’ve been thinking about. What I carried home in my heart after the forum was over.

This was my second time attending Medtronic DAF. The last one was almost two years ago now. This year, it was sponsored by both Medtronic and Bayer. (Disclosure time: Medtronic and Bayer paid for my flights, hotel, transportation, and food. But not my thoughts. Those are mine. Full disclosure policy here).

Like Kim said in her post, I went into the last event feeling quite intimidated. And nervous. I had never participated in anything like it before. I wasn’t even sure I belonged there. What did I really have to offer? But I learned a lot, and had a great experience.

This time around, I went in a different person. I’ve grown and changed a lot in the last two years. I’m not the same person I used to be. I’ve found my voice. Not that I have all the answers, but I’ve learned some things. That my voice matters. What advocacy looks like to me.  I was ready to learn, question, and discuss.

Like I said earlier, I can’t even begin to recap everything that happened. There was a lot. But what I keep thinking about is Saturday afternoon. Dr. Francine Kaufman is freaking amazing. I love her. Her talk is what I remember most from the event in 2012. And it’s what I remember most from this year as well. There is so much that needs to be done to care for people with diabetes around the world. As I sat there listening to her talk about her trips and the work she does with Medtronic Philanthropy and the International Diabetes Federation, I felt overwhelmed. There is so much need in the world. Where do we even start? The tears stung at my eyes as I looked a slide with a picture of a two year old girl with Type 1 Diabetes. Dr. Kaufman told us, “This child died.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. And here’s what I’ve learned: we pick a need, and start there. That’s what Dr. Kaufman does. She’s not trying to save everyone in the whole world. She found a need and dove in. Her work has made a difference in the lives of children with diabetes in Haiti. Has improved the outcomes for thousands of people with diabetes in Kazakhstan. And there’s work starting in China too.

We can’t save every person with diabetes in the entire world. But we do have the power to enact change. The brainstorming session we had following Dr. Kaufman’s talk was nothing short of magical. There are big plans for Spare A Rose, Save A Child this year. An action plan that roomful of people worked to create. It’s going to be BIG this year. That’s what we can do. Support Life For A Child and raise funds to get insulin and supplies to children with diabetes in need.

That’s what I brought home with me from Medtronic DAF. I left feeling inspired and empowered. Yes, there is a lot of need out there for people with diabetes. But we can do something. I cannot wait to see when happens when the entire Diabetes Online Community comes together.

We are ALL advocates in our own way. Imagine what we can do together.