Charitable Family Affair

Last night was the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Gala. I was the emcee. It’s the one guaranteed time every year to wear my tuxedo.

If you would have asked me in 1979 (when I owned a single knit tie to go with my one corduroy sport coat with elbow patches) if I’d someday wear a tuxedo, the answer would have been emphatically “No!” I was wrong.

This year was different for a few reasons. The gala moved from New Haven to Cromwell, and Helaine was on the committee making all the preparations.

Last night’s honoree was Dr. David Katz. He’s often seen on GMA and with Oprah.

Too good looking. Too young. Too smart. Too successful. Not that I’m judgmental.

The gala starts with a silent auction, then dinner, followed by a live auction and other fund raising tricks. After all, the whole idea of the night is to raise money for JDRF. In between, a disk jockey (Johnny Rozz) played. After dinner, “British Beat,” a Beatles tribute band, took over.

I’m not sure how Helaine and the others were able to get all of this together, but they did. It’s quite an undertaking, yet it was flawless.

My JDRF involvement is special to me. It’s all about the kids. Let it sound trite. I don’t care. They tear at my heart.

People think diabetes and then insulin. Insulin isn’t a cure, it’s a treatment. But often, even while following doctor’s orders, diabetes will extract a toll. I’m not going to present a list of common problems here. Suffice it to say, a diabetic child loses 10-15 years of life.

sophie-geoff.jpgI thought of that when I brought on Sophie Baum. She’s just 8, but she spoke to the all adult crowd.

Grown-ups dread public speaking. Not Sophie. She was flawless, with incredible presence. The room was silent with every eye on her. She didn’t flinch.

As is often the case, Sophie’s parents found out she was diabetic in a hospital emergency room. I have heard these horror stories before.

Your child is sick. You’re worried she’ll die. Instead you’re left with a life sentence. And when a child has diabetes, it’s a full time family responsibility.

We have cured polio and smallpox. Can’t the same happen with diabetes?

There is research underway now that shows great promise. I really believe a cure is getting close. It would be nice to think, a dollar I helped raise was the one that bought the research that found the cure.

JDRF Walk To Cure Diabetes

There are 1,100 parking spaces at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in North Haven. They were all full for today’s “Walk To Cure Diabetes.” A back of the envelope estimate says 3-4,000 people showed up!

That’s pretty good, considering the weather was awful. There were showers before, during and after the event. From time-to-time there were even downpours.

I love going to this event because I get to meet the people I’m trying to help.

Though there was a research setback reported last week, I still think juvenile diabetes can be eliminated, as polio and smallpox have been eliminated.

Here’s the article. Read past the headline, the bad news is in the last two paragraphs. The good news that led the article had been out for a while.

I am the celebrity chairman of this walk. I don’t know exactly what that means, except I give away my bosses airtime promoting the event, say hello to a lot of people during the event and shake a lot of hands.

The photo attached to this entry is a typical shot and I took a few dozen today. I don’t know the name of the totally soaked guy I’m with, but I was pointing to his tattoo in a bit of good natured fun and he was pleased I was.

This year’s walk was special in another way. Helaine came with me. As much as I enjoy the spotlight, Helaine avoids it.

I am very lucky to be able to help JDRF in a quantifiable way. No one at work tells me or even asks me to do this. I just know it’s right, and it makes me feel good. It couldn’t be any simpler.

Waking up early (for me) on a Sunday morning to stand out in the rain has never been more rewarding.

Continue reading “JDRF Walk To Cure Diabetes”

Walk to Cure Diabetes

I wish I could remember how my involvement with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and their yearly Walk To Cure Diabetes, began. I don’t. It has been over 10 years, I’m sure of that.

When I started helping, I didn’t know too much. I knew the word diabetes – not really what is was. Is that wrong?

Many civic and charitable organizations try to associate themselves with local radio and TV personalities. It’s a good, cheap way to get additional publicity. No one says that, but everyone knows it.

On the other side of the equation, lots of radio and television personalities try to associate themselves with civic and charitable organizations. There are a zillion reasons, some altruistic and some not.

Basically, I look at my job, realize I’ve got it good and wonder what I can do to show my gratitude.

What was unforeseen to me is how captivating and motivating my association with JDRF has been. In essence, a child doesn’t have diabetes – his family does. Everyone’s life changes, though none more than the diabetic.

Even with diabetes under control, you’re checking your blood by sticking yourself 5, 6, 10 time a day. If you’re lucky, you can use an insulin pump. If not, there are injections.

When you’re small your parents give the shots. As you grow older, it’s your responsibility. That’s a hell of an obligation for a teenager trying not to stick out in a crowd.

And then there’s the statistic that says the life of a diabetic is shortened by 15 or so years.

Anyway, the more I became involved, the more I wanted to be involved. Everything I read tells me a cure is close. I’m not a doctor, but I believe it’s true.

As this years walk approached, I asked at work if I could use our helicopter. It helps bring more visibility to JDRF… and it’s good for the station too. There were 4,000 walking in North Haven and another 4-500 in Niantic.

After some rain last night, I was pleased to see the forecast hold and the Sun come out. I woke up early and drove to Chester where the copter is based. It was chilly at 7:30 – I worried if I should have brought a jacket.

At Chester Airport, Chopper 8 is parked on a small trailer. It’s true. The pilot takes off and lands on a little trailer, not the ground. I climbed in the front with pilot Dan Peterman. Our photographer, Jim Bagley sat in the back with all the video gear.

It was a quick flight to Anthem Blue Cross in North Haven, the site of the first walk. I did a quick live hit on our morning news and we landed.

If you’ve never been to an event like this, it’s tough to explain. The Blue Cross campus was crawling with people of all ages.

I said hello and took pictures of and with as many people as I could. Around 10:00 AM the walk got underway and I made my way back to the helicopter for our trip to Niantic.

The Niantic crowd was smaller, more intimate. We were able to land he copter in a much more conspicuous place. Dan folded the doors back and we let people walk up and take a close look. Most people never get that chance and the copter is a big draw, especially with kids (and dads).

I went back to shooting and taking pictures.

Within the next few days I’ll have a better idea how JDRF did financially, My gut tells me this was a good year.

Now, here’s the payoff. We do this every year. But if we’re really successful, we’ll never have to do it again. It’s happened before. Polio was cured with research paid for a dime at a time. Maybe diabetes is next.

Blogger’s note – I took a lot of pictures… I mean a really huge number of pictures. As usual, they’re in my gallery.