Causes We Love: Chronically Awesome

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to an amazing organization, Chronically Awesome. This organization is fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas (more info HERE) and focuses on helping those with chronic illness share information about their conditions in a positive environment, discover their abilities, rather than focus on their inabilities and cultivate a culture that chooses to swap illness for awesome. Isn’t that AWESOME?

Julianna, the founder of Chronically Awesome

Here’s another fun fact: the whole Chronically Awesome journey began as a grassroots explosion on Twitter with the hashtag #ChronicallyAwesome. So many chronically ill social media users were looking for something positive and from there, the community was created. Their founder and Executive Director, Julianna Shapiro, joined the STAND community and shared more about their organization — what they are trying to accomplish, how they make an impact in the lives of so many people and more. Join passionate and inspiring people like Julianna on STAND by downloading the app here!

  1. What is the mission of your nonprofit? The Chronically Awesome Foundation strives to educate and raise awareness about the needs of the Chronically Awesome. We provide comfort to those in need and give back to The Chronically Awesome community in creative and uplifting ways. We want to inspire people who choose to separate from their illness mentally and begin healing in a way they never thought possible!

That is why, at the end of each day, more and more people are proud to make a longer and longer list of accomplishments starting with “Today I was Chronically Awesome because I…”.

We cultivate and support the Chronically Awesome Community through artistic programs (blogging, photography, painting, and crafting and more) to help with physical and psychological pain reduction. We also provide support programs both in group or peer-to-peer settings, including our online chats and peer-written tip sheets. These tip sheets are especially helpful for those newly diagnosed with a chronic illness.

As a philanthropic and support organization we do two things: assist the chronically awesome community online and assist the community at large with the help of our online community.

STAND profile of Julianna Shapiro, Chronically Awesome Founder

2. Why is your work so important? Supporting the chronically ill is not always the easiest thing to do. People in pain become depressed, and those suffering from psychological conditions often live in a world that has little to no light. Our work is important because we bring light to those living in pain and darkness. We acknowledge their pain when often even their families will not, and we encourage them to create, to write, to express themselves which often leads to emotional healing. We also provide support, inspiration, and friendship. The Foundation gathers and distributes information about many illnesses, providing tools for self-care and self-advocacy not just for a single condition as many foundations do. Most chronically ill people have at least two illnesses at once, and I have close to ten.

3. How does technology affect the work your nonprofit does? We work entirely via social media. It is our belief that many people who are chronically ill either cannot, or for various reason will not attend “in person” support groups. We can fill that need via video and text chat tools available on Facebook, Google+, Skype, FaceTime, and text chats. We have 8+ Facebook pages! We can distribute information quickly and easily on social media platforms. Our grassroots origin was Twitter. For us, social media, blogging, web chatting, and blogging are where it’s at!

4. How do you see STAND as a powerful ally to fulfilling your mission?

STAND harnesses the power of social and the voice of people who have passion, which is right up Chronically Awesome’s alley! STAND is a place where we can share about the current needs of the Chronically Awesome from the social mountain top.

5. Why is the power of awareness important to your org? Did you know that about half of all adults in the United States suffer from a chronic illness? That is over 117 million people who have one or more chronic disease. One in four have TWO or MORE!

I have an incurable and rare chronic condition — no one is even looking for a cure. Awareness is what the chronic illness community needs because there’s a lot of stigma and prejudice surrounding illness. I look perfectly healthy, and if I park in a handicapped parking space, I will get yelled at or have notes left on my car from people who simply do not understand the concept of invisible illness. That needs to change.

We want people to understand that we are not our conditions, we are people with conditions.

Also, those of us with chronic conditions need more support than a psychiatrist, a rheumatologist, or a primary care physician can offer. We need each other. No matter the condition, we all live with some very basic similarities and can, therefore, support each other in many ways.

Awareness helps us find each other and find more resources.

6. What are your social media handles? How can we follow along? What can the STAND community do to help the most?

On Twitter, we have three accounts: @chronicallyafnd, @our_depression and @ChroniclePod.

We have several Facebook pages — is our main page. We have specific Facebook pages for our community of bloggers, for mindfulness, our weekly podcast and the healing aspects of art, as well as pages devoted to insurance & coverage, for the Bipolar community and for those depressed and seeking hope and light.

Thank you Julianna for sharing!

Andi Teggart || Director of Community at STAND || @luckyandi || STAND is live in the App Store! Download STAND here.