A short time ago, Duracell created this video below, with our help, to promote the diabetes empowerment message of Project 365. Back in the beginning of the project when Stefanie and I were packing up our lives possessions into the Dragon Wagon, she jokingly said, “Someday you will be in ‘one of those Duracell commercials'”. I laughed it off and didn’t even give it a second thought. Now, a year and a half later, we are reaching more people than we ever thought possible with the message that life with diabetes is still about LIFE! This was a really big step for us and while it has been exciting, it has stirred up a little controversy.

Today I was looking at the video post on Duracell’s Facebook page and found a comment that made me feel like clarifying a few of the salient points surrounding Project 365 that might not be apparent from a 30 second highlight reel. This comment was probably not worth responding to, but Project 365 is my baby. It has been and still IS my life. I do not suffer fools gladly:

“Good for him WHITE MIDDLE UPPER CLASS, can go around the world, enjoying himself, without having to worry about daily survival in a factory, or living in the slum in a war zone, hey MONEY TALKS, and makes more money advertising and being sponsored -easy ride baby!”

I don’t really entertain internet “flame wars” but the person making the comment is correct about my ethnicity and not much else. I have done a lot of soul searching about the opportunities I have had, and I am always conscious of the fact that I have been blessed to have been able to complete the project despite all of the sacrifices it has entailed and the fact that we had no monetary sponsorship in Project 365 from the outset besides what our friends and family contributed because they believed in our idea of diabetes empowerment.

Having said that, my response to the idea that Project 365 has been a cakewalk based on my ethnicity or “economic privilege” followed thusly:

“Not that a person’s color or wealth should matter, but I’m married to a woman who is not white, Stefanie Richert, and I am sure she would be happy to share some stories of the “easy ride” that our life has been, sleeping in rest areas in my car, for months at a time, couch surfing and living in the dirt. Not that I am complaining–we chose that life because we wanted to do what we could, where we were to make a difference about how people with diabetes see themselves and their possibilities in life. 

You are accurate in saying that I dont work in a factory or live in a war zone. I am not going to apologize for that fact, but I will say that I have always felt empathy for those who really suffer, and part of my mission is to have enough visibility to be able to bring aid and support to those less fortunate. Its difficult or even impossible to make a difference on another continent if you haven’t started first with what is in your own back yard. 

Lastly, not that it should matter, but since you seem to be hung up on the concept of sponsorship, Stefanie and I took on this project without a single sponsor to start, funded by friends and family and by selling all the “stuff” we had that wasn’t integral to climbing. We were living out of her parents basement at the time, married for 4 years. She was bartending and I was a part time teacher. 

Im not sure if answering your complaints is useful or if you even care–I know that it is much easier to make snap judgements than to really examine the people you choose to tear down–and that is totally your call. I don’t think I deserve credit or praise for anything I have done. I have been incredibly blessed to have these opportunities and I try to use them as best I can. “

In closing, I am still excited for the visibility that diabetes empowerment is gaining, through ALL of the channels available to us. I can only hope to find more projects and more ways to extend the impact further afield–so if you are out there lurking on this blog post, hating on the fact that I am finally able to put a roof over my head for the first time in my adult life, shoot me an email about a way that together we can do something to help make a bigger difference. It’s usually more effective that way.