When I Speak What I Say

Maybe you call the pediatrician first, but you’re headed to the ER. Now you are worried for the health of your child. It is then and there, while you think your child is about to die, that you find out your family has been handed a life sentence.

I spent Saturday evening at the Omni in New Haven. It was the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual gala. This was number 13. I’ve been to them all. I am the emcee.

There’s something I say every time I speak on behalf of JDRF. It’s a part of diabetes most people don’t know.

First, the easy stuff. Thank God we have insulin. It is not a cure. It is a treatment.

Even with diligent adherence to doctor’s orders a person with Type 1 Diabetes will live a shorter life–over a decade shorter. They stand a high risk of adult onset blindness and amputations. You really don’t want to know.

Every family finds out differently, but there’s one scenario that keeps coming back.

The child is young, a year or two. Something’s wrong. If you’re a parent you understand what I’m saying. The child is lethargic, listless, moping.

There’s no real symptom you can tell a doctor, just general things a parent notices.

And then all hell breaks loose!

Your child spikes a fever and gets really ill. Maybe you call the pediatrician first, but you’re headed to the ER. Now you are worried for the health of your child.

It is then and there, while you think your child is about to die, that you find out your family has been handed a life sentence.

Life becomes more cumbersome… more burdensome. There are pumps and sophisticated testing for all, but you’re still poking a hole in your skin to get blood 5 or 6 times a day!

If you’re a kid trying to blend in being diabetic is your nightmare. At every turn you’re standing out or needing special attention. Some friend’s parents might not want the responsibility that comes with you visiting.

A child is diagnosed with diabetes, but the family participates. Nothing is done without considering the disease first.

And diabetes will still diminish your quality of life and then life itself!

What the JDRF does is try and buy a cure. It’s that simple. The money we raise pays salaries for doctors and labs around-the-world. JDRF provides some of the grant money you hear about so often. Research follows money.

This disease will be cured. It will be cured in the short term. Everyone understands what needs to be done.

Some of the best proposals involve testing an artificial pancreas. It’s a closed loop system running silently inside you. It tests blood sugar then parcels out the correct amount of insulin all in real time.

The exact method the pancreas will use to do this and the full understanding of exactly how much insulin is right are still being engineered. There is no tolerance for fault in the finished design.

Last night after dinner a young woman with Type 1 Diabetes spoke for a few moments. She was moving. It’s tough not to be involved with motivation like that.

The gala honored Al Subbloie – President & CEO of Tangoe. I first knew them as a tiny company in a walk-up office over Roberto’s Restaurant on State Street in New Haven. Not so tiny any more. He seems like a very smart guy. Impressive.

We Walked In North Haven Today

We had around three thousand people today. It was as full as it’s ever been! It’s worth clicking on the streetview shot to see.

Today was the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes. It’s held in North Haven on Quinnipiac University’s campus. It’s pretty much the perfect spot.

Helaine and I got there around 9:00. The place was already filling up.

I’ve told the story before. Basically, I was introduced to JDRF and it resonated with me. I help publicize it when I can. FoxCT/WCCT ran a public service announcement for this event this year. That was very nice of my station and I’m proud to have helped make it happen.

On the day of the walk my job is to be your host, shmooze and mingle. We had around three thousand people today. It was as full as it’s ever been! It’s worth clicking on the streetview shot to see.

I try and say hello to as many people as I can. I’m like a pol running for office. When people ask I’ll pose for pictures. Whatever you want.

I also make the announcements from the stage. Johnny Rozz at Sound Spectrum comes with a full deejay setup. That makes it a lot easier.

I know a lot of people are bothered by crowds. Maybe it’s just something you get used to? Large groups don’t intimidate me.

Though the walk is three times around the campus most people do it just once. No one is checking. Everyone gives the full amount pledged. Don’t tell.

A number of people came to me this morning and said they missed me. That either means either they don’t know about my tumultuous winter or they haven’t switched.

Excuse me. Shameless plug follows.

All I ask is watch once. Take a test drive. FoxCT delivers a better assembled, more thoughtful newscast. We’re on at 10p and 11p every night.

If you can make the walk next year, I’d love to see you.

JDRF Walk–Pictures Of Puppies

Here are some of my favorite dog pics from the walk plus some video I shot as the walk was getting underway.

All week long as I mentioned the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk to Cure Diabetes” I asked people to bring their dogs. Mission accomplished! There were dozens of puppies happily walking with their families (I was going to say masters, but thought the better of it). That’s a lot of photo ops!

Here are some of my favorite dog pics from the walk plus some video I shot as the walk was getting underway.

Ask Me Anything–A Few More Answers

Charlie and a few others want to know, “Are you in any way related to Sonny Fox, who was the host of Wonderama?”

I’m currently answering all your questions. Read more about it here.

Laura asks: “Geoff – what led to your interest in the American Diabetes Association?”

First Laura it’s the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. JDRF is focused solely on Type 1 diabetes which is the type most often discovered while you’re young, hence the name.

From JDRF.org: Diabetes is a chronic, debilitating disease affecting every organ system. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively.

The simple answer is “I don’t know” how I became involved! It was probably a simple request for an appearance. Something about the organization and the kids and families affected touched me immediately.

I also like JDRF because they primarily fund research and are considered a very efficient charity because a very large percentage of their funds go directly to science. I believe JDRF money will fund the cure. It’s that simple.

From Lisa: “I sent you a letter back in the early 90’s when I was in elementary school (I believe I still have it!) asking for help with a science fair project on lightning. Do you get a lot of letters from kids on related topics?”

Thanks to Google–no!

My policy was/is I don’t do homework for you. I always asked the child to send me or tell me his dead end research before I’d give an answer.

When you’re in the fifth grade no one expects your research on clouds will make you an atmospheric scientist. The teachers want you to learn to research subjects. I kept that in mind.

Charlie and a few others want to know, “Are you in any way related to Sonny Fox, who was the host of Wonderama?”

If only!

Irwin “Sonny” Fox was a huge presence on TV as I grew up. He hosted Wonderama (and some adult shows too) which was on for five or six hours every Sunday–live! He often brought smart people on to talk to kids. He never talked down to children.

I’m sure what Sonny did would be looked upon as quaint today. It was a time when the impact on the audience was more important than the impact on the bottom line (Though to be fair, a TV station was a license to print money back then and you could afford to be magnanimous).

He is in his mid-80s now. I hope he knows how many of us remember him fondly.

Honored At The JDRF Gala

I wanted to include my parents and used them as examples of how medicine has advanced. They didn’t know I’d ask them to stand.

I want to write about last night. Indulge me. There’s no graceful way to do this.

Last night was the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s annual gala. It was held at the carousel at New Haven’s Lighthouse Park. The gala is one of the ways JDRF raises money for research. As altruistic as I’d like to be under our system money buys research.

Because of my eighteen plus years of working for JDRF they decided to present me with their “Dream Award.”

It was an incredible honor. My parents came up from Florida. My friend Peter took the train up from New Jersey. Our neighbors came. They all joined Helaine and me.

JDRF invited Dr. Mel to present me with my award which was a nice surprise. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro came to our table to said hello to my folks.

For the past few years I’ve been the emcee at this event. I was again last night. This is like the Hair Club for Men president being president and a client, right?

I’ve spoken on behalf of JDRF before so I knew what I was going to say and worked without a script. I wanted to include my parents and used them as examples of how medicine has advanced. They didn’t know I’d ask them to stand.

My mom is a cancer survivor. My dad has had bypass surgery and a corotid endarterectomy (I had to look up that term). When their parents were the same age those procedures didn’t exist. My parents are survivors by virtue of a single generation!

My point is though there is no cure for diabetes yet it’s not time to give up. Breakthroughs happen. Science advances. Lives are saved.

Right now there are too many beautiful children and happy families whose lives are turned upside down when their diabetes is discovered.

Like I said, money buys research. The current research is very hopeful. Work is being done to perfect an artificial pancreas. More research is being done to perfect a stem cell therapy. Research finds cures.

So, was it a good night? It certainly was. Finding a cure would be even better.

Cold At The Beach – JDRF Photo Shoot

The most probable outcomes are scary and sobering. You wouldn’t wish those on an enemy.

I was up early (for me) and headed to the beach this morning. On a windy, slate gray day that screamed early February not late March Lighthouse Point should have been empty. The parking area around the carousel was decidedly not. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation was having a photo shoot. The cars were there to chauffeur JDRF’s stars.

It’s impossible to work with these children and not be affected. They are normal kids. They are cute and sweet and sometimes pains in the ass. What they share in common is diabetes–and it’s with them and their families 24/7.

Two young girls wearing insulin pumps.When you know what to look for they’re easy to pick out. Down around the hip where a cop would wear his holster they’re wearing a pump. It might pass as a cellphone or pager except for the slender tubes leading from it to their body.

Their diabetes is being treated, but the treatment isn’t 100% effective. They will live shorter lives and suffer huge health problems. The most probable outcomes are scary and sobering. You wouldn’t wish those on an enemy.

We’ve heard a lot recently about pre-existing health conditions and insurance. Look at the kids with me in the photo. They are the perfect example.

Even with pumps and blood monitoring they’ll make mistakes. I’ve heard this story in slightly different form from dozens of parents. It’s a sleepover or a party and the phone rings. Their child has gone into diabetic shock. The host is petrified the child will die.

Even when everything has stabilized the family will walk on eggshells. The invitations will become a little less frequent. The leash will shorten.

If JDRF asks me to jump, I ask how high. It’s nearly impossible for me… for my family… to say no. And it’s totally because of the people I’ve met at things like this photo shoot. We have no family history with diabetes I know of.

On the way out from the carousel I stopped and chatted with a father of a girl with Type 1 diabetes. He is worried the economic power of drug companies will keep us from ever seeing a cure. It’s in the drug company’s interest to find ongoing treatments, not singular cures. I am hoping his worries are unfounded, but it’s still an awful thought.

Work is moving forward on an artificial pancreas. Briefly, a diabetic child will be fitted with a device to perform the functions a properly operating pancreas provides. It’s a complex solution combining medicine with digital electronics. It’s nearly perfected.

It’s a closed loop solution. That’s the amazing part. The diabetic need do nothing except live their life!

Today’s photo shoot is in support of the annual fund raising gala held by the Greater New Haven JDRF chapter. It’s coming up a few weeks from now in April.

Chris Kirby, our art director at the TV station, put together this public service announcement promoting the gala together on his own in his free time. It is voiced by another friend, Walter Mann. If you’d like to embed it on your site, please feel free.

[pro-player type=”flv”]https://www.geofffox.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/JDRF-Gala-Spotv2_AppleTV.flv[/pro-player]

JDRF Carousel Of Dreams

Wouldn’t it be nice to think the dollar you sent was the dollar that bought the last piece that solved the puzzle that cured the disease!

If you’ve read this blog any length of time or just watched me on TV you know I’ve been associated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for nearly two decades. I’ve helped them raise a lot of money.

This year they’ve decided to honor me at their annual gala (along with the much more accomplished president of Quinnipiac University, John Lahey).

OK–here’s the truth with these fundraisers. Usually the person honored is someone who can sell tickets. Seriously, it’s often a businessman who can lean on vendors and suppliers. That’s why I was surprised to be asked. But believe me–I am honored. Holy crap I am humbly honored.

If you can attend, I’d love to see you there. The tickets are somewhat pricey and I understand that’s a problem for many people. However, if you and your family make charitable contributions I hope you’ll consider JDRF. I’ve been doing this so long because I really do feel it’s an organization that does good. And, just as importantly, I feel they’re really close to a cure!

Once you meet a family dealing with diabetes you’ll understand why I feel as I do. It’s the whole family that deals with diabetes, not just the child afflicted.

Wouldn’t it be nice to think the dollar you sent was the dollar that bought the last piece that solved the puzzle that cured the disease!

Tickets are $200. You can contact JDRF at 203-248-1880. There’s more information on the JDRF website.

The Speech Of My Life

When it was over I received a standing ovation. A few people were crying.

Tonight was the annual post-walk dinner for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was held at the Woodbridge Country Club.

Because of our newscasts and especially because of the upcoming storm I showed up while the event was already underway. I watched as group after group was cited for raising money for diabetes research. I was asked to say a few words at the end.

I have spoken hundreds of times to organizations. It comes easily to me. I had nothing prepared and was planning on speaking for no more than a minute or two.

I began and immediately sensed the audience was very attentive. For a speaker that’s the juice.

I have no explanation why, but I gave the speech of my life!

That’s not melodramatic hyperbole. This presentation was light years beyond anything I’d done before.

Even while presenting I could feel the pieces come together. Juvenile diabetes is, after all these years, something I know about. More importantly, I know what the parents and families are going through.

My little ad lib found its groove with a logical beginning, middle and end. It built as it moved toward its conclusion. When it was over I received a standing ovation. A few people were crying.

I was touched by the response. It affected me deeply.

I didn’t expect to make this kind of impact. I didn’t set out with that intention. I’ve never spoken like this before. Who knows if I ever will again?

It was a passionate rallying cry for a cause that’s important made to an audience that’s desperate for results. For some, I suspect, I renewed their hope for a cure.

You know that stuff about giving being better than receiving? It’s true.

I Hope This Is True – Diabetes Cure

Don’t bother reading the boxed text unless you’re a physician. Even then you might skip it. It’s from the journal “Cell.”

In type 1 diabetes, T cell-mediated death of pancreatic β cells produces insulin deficiency. However, what attracts or restricts broadly autoreactive lymphocyte pools to the pancreas remains unclear. We report that TRPV1+ pancreatic sensory neurons control islet inflammation and insulin resistance. Eliminating these neurons in diabetes-prone NOD mice prevents insulitis and diabetes, despite systemic persistence of pathogenic T cell pools. Insulin resistance and β cell stress of prediabetic NOD mice are prevented when TRPV1+ neurons are eliminated. TRPV1NOD, localized to the Idd4.1 diabetes-risk locus, is a hypofunctional mutant, mediating depressed neurogenic inflammation. Delivering the neuropeptide substance P by intra-arterial injection into the NOD pancreas reverses abnormal insulin resistance, insulitis, and diabetes for weeks. Concordantly, insulin sensitivity is enhanced in trpv1−/− mice, whereas insulitis/diabetes-resistant NODxB6Idd4-congenic mice, carrying wild-type TRPV1, show restored TRPV1 function and insulin sensitivity. Our data uncover a fundamental role for insulin-responsive TRPV1+ sensory neurons in β cell function and diabetes pathoetiology.

What that exercise in ‘academic speak’ says is, Canadian scientists might have found a cure for diabetes. If true, this is amazing news.

In a more human friendly article from Canada’s National Post:

In a discovery that has stunned even those behind it, scientists at a Toronto hospital say they have proof the body’s nervous system helps trigger diabetes, opening the door to a potential near-cure of the disease that affects millions of Canadians.

Diabetic mice became healthy virtually overnight after researchers injected a substance to counteract the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas.

Operative words: “healthy overnight.” For families of diabetics, that little phrase is the answer to years of prayers.

You probably know I’m involved in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I am touched by the stories of the families affected by diabetes. It’s no less tragic when it’s Type 2, or adult onset diabetes.

Children with diabetes have a life span more than ten years shorter than non-diabetic kids. And then there’s the daily trouble and worries that come with being diabetic.

Each year I say, “I hope this is my last JDRF Walk.” Maybe I’ve already walked it!

I sent the article and a brief note to Mary Kessler, who runs the local JDRF chapter.

We are all very excited-thanks for sending it on to me.

Try not to get too excited about it yet, we have had these miracles before and they did not translate to humans-but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

She’s right. Some exciting progress, using stem cell research, fizzled only a few months ago. What looked very good at the outset was just an empty promise.

Still, if there’s going to be a cure, it’s likely to start with an announcement like this one. My fingers are crossed.

JDRF Dinner

Tonight, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation held their yearly appreciation dinner following the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. I was told the two walks I’m involved with raised $900,000.

Yes, that’s a lot of money to be raised in Southern Connecticut. Makes me feel good and I’m by no means alone.

Because of the early news, I walked in while the program was already in progress. Within a few minutes I was called to speak. Oops – I had no clue I’d be asked.

Everyone there was very nice to me.

If you want to know the upside of celebrity (and in my little pond, I suppose I’m a big fish) it’s stuff like this.

I’m able to move tens of thousands of dollars of free publicity toward this organization year-after-year. I help add a little credibility for those just getting involved.

These are things you don’t consider when you crave celebrity – and growing up, I did crave celebrity.

We’ve Got A Dumpster. Are You Jealous Yet?

It arrived early this morning. Early enough, I was still sound asleep (not a major breakthrough there). For a ‘big guy’ it was awfully quiet, coming to a rest under our bedroom window with nary a squeal.

“It’s here,” Helaine said, as I pretended to get out of bed. So it is.

We got our dumpster in an auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It’s a win-win-win situation. JDRF gets the money. We get a dumpster. The child of the family that owns the dumpster, a child with Type 1 diabetes, gets closer to the day when juvenile diabetes in cured.

Helaine couldn’t wait to get started. We had both a treadmill and glider in our bedroom. These two pieces of fitness equipment were actually worn out by my wife! The glider split in two while she was gliding.

Neither she nor I are particularly strong, but we managed to push, pull and carry both pieces to the driveway. A quick tug of the latch to release the door on the end of the dumpster, proved futile.

I’ve never made a call to ask if I could use a small sledge on a piece of rented equipment before. I have now. I can… however, in all fairness I’ve also sprayed some WD-40 on the bolts and hinges hoping for some divine intervention.

Over the next two weeks, we will find out what makes the cut. Is it a keepsake or junk, posing as a keepsake? The idea is to be brutal and heartless. If there’s doubt, throw it out.

We rented a smaller dumpster a few years ago. It left here filled to the brim and screaming for mercy. That’s our goal again.

JDRF Gala Video

Earlier, I wrote about Chris and Patty Kirby’s amazing video on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Here it is.

When you watch this, as I hope you do, please remember Patty wrote it, I read the copy and Chris did everything else – everything! It’s pretty amazing.

My Charitable Weekend

Helaine and I went to New Haven for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gala last night. Helaine looked spectacular – slinky in her black dress. I wore in a tuxedo, meaning I was dressed like the waiters.

I have been told $400,000 was raised last night. That’s a lot of money for a very worthy cause.

As is so often the case at events like this, there was a silent auction first. Hundreds of team from sports memorabilia to artwork to food to eclectic one-of-a-kind articles were up for grabs.

We bid on… actually outbid Mike Laptino from WPLR… for a dumpster rental. Say what you will, but having the dumpster for a week or two while you clean the house in wholesale fashion is a helluva good deal.

The evening went well. Mary Kessler, who runs the local JDRF chapter, looked on edge all evening – but if she was waiting for something bad to happen, she had to be disappointed. It was smooth as can be.

I had one awkward moment. One of the auction items was a trip to Chicago to see Oprah. Later, I said it was a misprint. It was actually a trip to Chicago to eat Okra.


David Letterman proved, and I have now confirmed, Oprah’s name doesn’t work in humor. I mean really, really silent… really.

We got home around 11:00, which was good because we were starting early this morning. That’s not to say I went to bed at 11:00, but at least I was a little earlier than usual – around 3:00 AM.

Helaine woke me at 8:15 AM. A friend of Helaine’s had invited us to Brooksvale Park in Hamden for a walk in support of Autistic children.

Like diabetes, autism doesn’t stop with just the person who is autistic. The entire family is brought in, because care is a family affair. And, like diabetes, you’ve got to hope research will bring us closer to understanding, treating and preventing.

I am always struck by the strength and commitment of those thrust into this situation. No one has a child with the thought that child will need a lifetime of special care. You play the hand you’re dealt.

I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never seen anyone in this situation say “why me,” or approach life in a grudging way.

Weather conditions were perfect and everyone was in a good mood. There were lots of families and lots of dogs – including one dressed as Elvis.

Don’t ask. I have no idea why.

Along with all the partying was a demonstration of radio controlled planes and helicopters. These copters are amazing little devices. I watched one loop upside down and fly with its nose pointed straight up.

The guy in charge told me any of these model fliers could pilot a real helicopter, though a copter pilot would surely crash the model!

The culmination of the morning was a walk from Brooksvale up the ‘linear park’ into Cheshire. Again, it’s great to watch all these families sharing the day and working for a good cause.

For Helaine and me, a busy weekend – but very rewarding… and don’t forget the dumpster!

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

I’ve been working with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for well over a decade. I’ve mentioned it here before. I am lucky enough to have the ability to give away my bosses TV station for charity – and I do.

A few months ago, one of the people I work with, Chris Kirby, also decided to get involved with JDRF. I’m not sure why he did it, just as I’m not sure what drew me to them. It happens.

Chris called the local chapter director and made an offer. He wanted to put together a video. Chris is the perfect person to do this. He’s our art director at the TV station.

He once told me he couldn’t draw. Maybe he can’t. Truth is, he’s an unbelievably talented designer totally at home with the digitization of art.

You’ll see. This is leading to an example.

The day of the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, Chris was there with his home video camera. After the walk, his wife Patty wrote a script, I voiced the track, and Chris created a presentation that will help JDRF get out the word and raise more money.

Virtually everything in the video was created by Chris. It’s an astounding undertaking. It runs 6:30 and you can see it by clicking here.

I am honored he allowed me to voice it.

A Sunday Well Spent

Yesterday I wrote I’d be going to bed late Saturday night. Who predicts me better than me? I was up until 4:00 AM.

That made the sound of the alarm clock at 8:00 AM very unwelcome. It didn’t make much difference. There was no doubt I’d be getting out of bed. Today was the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation “Walk To Cure.”

The official line was 4,000 attending and $900,000 raised. Those are estimates, but they’re pretty close.

Someone I met asked how long I’d been doing this? I have no clue, so I asked, and was told I’ve been involved with JDRF for 12 years.

JDRF thinks I’ve been good to them. Shhh – don’t tell. It’s really the other way around.

I am their “Celebrity Chairman.” I don’t know what that means. There are probably four or five days a year when I appear on JDRF’s behalf. I speak to corporate sponsors at breakfast and lunches, helping to motivate them. I appear at the walk itself and do a lot of handshaking and picture taking.

What I do that JDRF never expected when I signed on is promote the living daylights out of the walk during the final week. I’d like to think that brings more walkers, which means more money. I really don’t know.

Over the years my bosses have never objected to me giving away their television station in this way. It certainly brings added notoriety to the event, which, even if it doesn’t help this year, helps going forward.

Here’s the big secret. You know the scene in Jerry McGuire where Renee Zellweger says, “You had me at hello?” JDRF had me early too. It might have been the first time I heard a story about a child with diabetes and how that child’s family originally discovered it.

The discovery, unfortunately, is often made in the middle of the night, in a hospital emergency room, by parents who are worried about a mysteriously ill child they fear will die. Hearing it’s diabetes doesn’t make that night any better. It’s a life sentence.

If you’ve got diabetes, your life will be cut short – period. How’s that for motivation?

So, if I can help (and I think I do)… and if the money we raise brings research a little closer… how can I not? There are few things I do where I am absolutely guaranteed to come home feeling good about myself. This is one.