My daughter Rachel was diagnosed with diabetes at 18 months old. Since neither my husband nor I had a family history of the disease, you can imagine the shock and confusion I felt as a parent. Rachel had been an extremely healthy toddler, but when we came back from two days away and her caretaker told us that she’d been consuming huge amounts of liquid and begging for “more juice,” I was worried. I knew there was nothing else it could be.
I packed her in her car seat and we went to her pediatrician’s office, where they told me it couldn’t be true, she was too young. I begged them to test her and my worst fears were confirmed. Her blood sugar was 700 — off the charts. She was immediately admitted to what was then Children’s Hospital. Doctors explained that a few more days left untreated could have resulted in a coma.
As any parent whose child is newly diagnosed with a disease knows all too well, the first few months are awful. With diabetes, it meant insulin shots, blood tests and middle-of-the-night seizures. I was horrified and felt helpless so I did what any parent would do: I made it my mission to help find a cure.
I was trading during this time, and found friends, colleagues and even competitors to be very supportive of Rachel’s situation and how it was affecting our family. I invited them to support or join me on a team for the annual American Diabetes Association walk. Who would have thought that our first-time team would end up becoming one of the top fundraisers in the country?
As Rachel grew, I continued to fundraise through the ADA and JDRF to help find a cure. Rachel began taking care of herself around age 8, and at age 10, was one of the first kids to receive a pump. By age 11, she was fully in control of her diabetes, counting carbs and matching the right foods.
After my 40th birthday celebration, a friend suggested that we throw the next bash to have fun AND raise money for diabetes research. We had no idea how to start an organization, but we certainly knew how to throw a party — so “Friends for the Cure” was born. We did all the corporate fundraising before the event, and the first party raised $200,000. That year, 300 people turned out for an unforgettable time.
Ten years after that first event, Rachel is 18 years old, and “Friends for the Cure” has raised more than $2 million dollars to support research and educational programs for various diabetes organizations. What started as a group of friends getting together to combat this disease has become 700 celebrants trying to raise $500,000 to directly fund research. Rachel is our inspiration and the reason we have all come together. I hope you’ll join us at this year’s event.
To purchase tickets for “Mardi For a Cure,” held Sat., March 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Montgomery Club of Chicago, visit Friendsforthecure.com.