Editor's note: Kacey led the charge in planning and hosting the first CDN annual retreat in Texas: a weekend of learning, networking, and gaining leadership skills. Read on for the process of planning and everything that happened at the retreat!
Community is such a strong thing that empowers people to accomplish some amazing feats. I really felt the support of the young adult T1D community this past summer at the 5th Annual Leadership Retreat the College Diabetes Network put on in Maine. I had the honor to attend along with 24 other chapter leaders. We spent a week bonding, sharing ideas, and thinking up ways to better our lives with diabetes. I was so amped up on the feeling of being in a group that understood what it meant to have diabetes that I was nervous to head back to my campus with students who still gasped at me saying my blood sugar was 230 because they read in a textbook that that was really high. I wanted to bring this feeling of community back to Texas. The idea of connecting with other Chapters in Texas popped up at the Annual Retreat when I met another Chapter leader from Texas. I knew we had to have more than just 2 Chapters in our huge state.
The planning processes started in my free time before the fall semester started. I typed out a rough draft of the schedule, who we would reach out to, why I wanted to have the retreat, where it would be, the guest speaker I wanted, the breakout sessions we would do, the audience I wanted to impact, and a rough draft letter that I would send out to Chapter leaders to gauge their interest.
Once I had all of this in a word doc I reached out to Dan Browne from CDN. I asked if we could get grant money for hotels if I got enough people to want to meet up in Austin for a CDN get together. Surprisingly he had already been talking with CDN about hosting regional retreats and so he was all for getting the ball rolling on this. That just goes to show that you should not be scared to ask for something no matter how huge it may seem, there may be someone with the same idea who would do anything to help you out.
Planning this regional retreat took a lot of hard work and a lot of communication. It took flexibility and being receptive to ideas, it also took hearing “no” on a couple of occasions. There was something to be done at least 5 times every week. We had to get the interest of Chapter leaders and members around Texas to be able to even have people attend. I made a survey on who would be interested and went from there. My goal was to have at least 10 people say they would want to come (I know this is such a low number but I had no idea how many people from Texas were involved in CDN). Well, I had about 40 people initially say they would be interested! This gave me even more of a fire to get things done.
Now, for how the retreat went!
Students got into Austin Friday night to check into the hotel. Once the majority of us got checked in we had our first meet up at a restaurant. We had a huge table with around 15 plus members. We then did what every group of people living with diabetes would do.. go to an ice cream shop to enjoy a sweet treat. The next day we woke up and started the retreat around 9. We had an introduction and a keynote speech presented by Tina, the CEO & founder. After this we did ice breakers to get to know everyone. Following that we had our first breakout sessions. Our members got to bounce ideas off each other on how to gain members and also how to easily go through leadership transitions.
The retreat, all in all, was amazing. It was a jam packed day that had lots of information that even our members who do not have diabetes got to take something away from. Isabelle Shamblin, a member not living with diabetes, said “The retreat was amazing, I was able to understand a little bit more about what y'all go through!” For my Chapter personally, we were able to bond more than any event we have had on campus before. We hope we can do it again next semester and meet up with all the new friends we have made!