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Today is day 20 of the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge and I’m going off prompt to talk about the Chicago Diabetes EXPO.

The American Diabetes Association hosted their annual Chicago Diabetes EXPO last Saturday and, for the second year in a row, I made the drive from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis to catch a ride to the EXPO on the bus charted by the good folks at the ADA’s Indiana office, went to Chicago and back to Indy, and then drove back to Fort Wayne.  All in the span of 24 hours.  Yes, the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over and expecting different results to follow, and if you look that up in a dictionary you’ll see a picture of me beside it.

And this year, April took part in the insanity with me after having worked second shift the evening before.  That’s love, or something like that.  We left Fort Wayne around 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning and reached the ADA office just in time to fill out the required paperwork and load the bus for the interesting trip ahead of us.

The DOC at The EXPO

The Diabetes Online Community was out in force at the EXPO this year.  Fellow Indiana DOC members Mike Hoskins and Jeff Neitzel also took the bus trip from Indianapolis to Chicago, and we met up with Marie Smith and explored the offerings of the the event together.  And we were joined by our friend Missy during the cooking demo by Jamie Deen.

It was great getting to meet Marie and Missy in person for the first time, and sharing the EXPO experience with fellow DOC members.  And it was definitely fun explaining to people who asked how we all knew each other.  That we had all met online and arranged out meetup via Twitter.  All hail the power of social media.

April, Mike Hoskins, Marie, Me, and Jeff

Jamie Deen

Jamie Deen and Dr. Anita Swamy

This year’s celebrity guest was Jamie Deen, son of Southern cooking queen Paula Deen, who recently announced that she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a couple of years ago.  Jamie and his brother Bobby have been traveling the country to demonstrate how they’ve transformed their mother’s traditional southern style meals into more diabetic friendly offerings as part of the “Diabetes in a New Light” campaign sponsored by Novo Nordisk.

On this day, Jamie demonstrated a vegetarian gumbo recipe while a Chicago area doctor talked about the health benefits, etc…  It was an “OK” performance but, frankly, I wasn’t overly impressed by it.  I, like pretty much everyone else, wanted to hear Jamie talk about what he was doing during the demo, his thoughts on the campaign, his mom, etc…  If I wanted to hear a doctor lecture on the benefits of eating low fat, low sodium, and low carb foods, well… I’d go visit my own doctor.

Perhaps my expectations going into it were a bit too high, but if I had paid to see that presentation I would be asking for my money back.  I was there to see and hear from Jamie.  Not the doctor.   And, I’m not the only one in the DOC group who felt that way.

After the cooking demo was finished, Mike Hoskins had a chance to meet Jamie and sit down for an interview with him.  And since I had a camera with me, I went along and snapped a few photos to help Mike with his story.  You can find the story and photos over at the Diabetes Mine.  Great job, Mike.

The Red Bracelet

During the cooking and interview, Mike and I took note of a red bracelet that Jamie was wearing, but we didn’t think to ask what it was about until later.  While we were looking at the interview photos, we agreed that we needed to know.   And when I noticed Jamie walking toward the Novo Nordisk booth for his meet and greet, I took off after him to get an answer.

The Red Bracelet is part of a charity project that Jamie started, and it benefits a food bank in Savannah, Georgia.  One side of the bracelet says, “Malice Toward None.”  The other, “Do Good Things.”  The message, be nice to people, do what you can to help someone, and pay forward the good things that others have done for you.  It’s a good idea, and one that I can support.

Malice Toward None

Do Good Things

Now, I just wanted to know what the bracelet said, but as he was explaining it, Jamie removed the bracelet from his wrist and gave it to me. “Welcome to the club,” he said.

Part of me thought that was a cool and classy thing for him to have done.  On the flip side, I also thought it was probably all for show because there were so many people around, including his PR person and the handlers from Novo Nordisk.  Whatever the motivation, I was really just appreciative to have gotten the answer to my question.  And, of course, a cool story to tell.

Jamie and Me

The Freebies

What would a health fair of any kind be without boatloads of brochures, goodies, and other assorted freebies?  April and I ended up with three or four bags a piece by the time we left the EXPO.  And the best catch of the day in my mind was the Contour USB meter and vial of 50 test strips handed out by Bayer.  I got one as a backup and April got one to take home for her mom.  Oh, and I can’t forget the enormous pill sorting box given to folks who pre-registered for the EXPO online.  Given the number of pills I take each day, that could come in handy.  We’ll see.   Now we just have to sort through the rest of our loot.

Back to Indy & Fort Wayne

We were all sufficiently wore out and ready to go home by the end of the EXPO, and we boarded the bus back to Indianapolis a little after 4:oo p.m. Chicago time.

Just as we did last year, we had a bit of fun on the ride home in the form of a diabetes trivia game and a prize drawing.  Everyone ended up with a prize.  I got a water bottle and a stress ball.  Pretty cool.

We got back to Indy around 8:30 p.m. or so, and since it was raining, the goodbyes were short and sweet.  April and I got dinner a little north of Indy and then hit the road back to Fort Wayne.  Since she slept on the bus, April got to drive home.  I don’t remember much of that two hour drive. :-)

That’s all, Folks!

Overall, this year’s trip to the Chicago Diabetes EXPO was a great experience and I’ll more than likely take part in it again next year.  I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the experience with friends from the Diabetes Online Community.  At the end of the day, it was the people I was with that made the day enjoyable.

And, we had twice as many people on the bus this year as last year.  Clearly there is interest in these types of events, and this should serve as encouragement for the continuing this trip in the coming years.  And as I said last year, consider this my RSVP.