I recently returned from the Red River Gorge in Kentucky where I got a chance to share Project 365 with a lot of new friends. It was an amazing trip albeit short lived as the hurricane (Sandy) made short work of the beautiful weather we enjoyed initially. As I headed down to Kentucky, I was a bit apprehensive because I didnt have a partner. I just a had a lot of camera gear and desire to climb and capture some exciting footage for the Project 365 documentary.

This actually worked in my favor because in the course of making new friends and finding folks to climb with, the project invariably came up in conversation and everyone I met was really enthusiastic about helping and being involved. I climbed with Emily, Alex, Beth and Toby (Beth is on belay and not pictured here.)

Alex, Toby and Emily

One of the questions Toby immediately asked upon hearing about Project 365 was “how do you plan on raising awareness through what you are doing?” A fair question (and one I got several more times!) and it really inspired me to kick off Diabetes Awareness Month by sharing about my time in Kentucky as well as some thoughts about raising awareness.

Diabetes awareness means different things to different people, just as diabetes itself means different things to each of us. I look at a lot of the awesome initiatives I have seen like the BigBlueTest and You Can Do This and I realize that we all have a role to play in increasing the visibility of diabetes as well as highlighting various elements of life with this condition for the benefit of the public and also for those who live with Diabetes.

I started Project 365 because I felt like it was something that I could contribute to the here and now to help inspire a positive attitude towards living with a thoroughly negative condition. I never felt satisfied with pinning my hopes on future cures and research to solve the problems that we can solve today through our choices-and I have found that many others share this same view! Diabetes awareness and Project 365 will not eliminate the need for test strips and insulin. It won’t eliminate the frustration of high blood sugar readings despite having tight dietary adherence. It wont eliminate the fear of a low blood sugar episode while driving or after getting down off of a climb.  Someday science might fix those problems. But in the meantime we have to live our lives in the open, my contribution to awareness is empowerment.

Special thanks to Beth Jackson for capturing these still photos while I was climbing!
Photo by Beth Jackson: almost at the top of the route, Emily is hanging on rappel shooting video. I can tell you that a lot of effort from Emily, Alex, Toby and Beth went into helping out with these shots. This is where awareness begins–reaching out and getting involved!

Project 365 makes a compelling argument that diabetes is not weakness, it is accountability and motivation–two elements which can make you strong if you let them. Empowerment means you get to drive and diabetes takes a backseat to YOU and what you want out of your life. I like to say that I don’t struggle  with diabetes, I make it endure ME.

A screenshot of some of the awesome video captured by Emily as I completed my hardest onsight to date, 5.10c. This was significant for me because it means that I was able to climb this entire route, the first time without falling or resting or any pre-inspection!

That message of empowerment for people with diabetes is what I wanted to share a year ago when I was trying to kick off this project and today, 290 days deep, I can tell you that I am more passionate and committed to this vision, having had the opportunity to live it out and share it. My documentary effort, my contribution, is a small piece of the puzzle and I am happy to be part of the growing community of people who are sharing and empowering!

I am very thankful to everyone who has been sharing Project 365, encouraging  their friends to like us on Facebook, retweeting, contributing financially, commenting on the blog, and those who have taken their time and effort to help with the physical process of capturing video and photos! You guys ROCK and these are the front lines of awareness and empowerment!

Stay tuned for more. This is going to be a great month!