The Audacious Dreams of “Judy Consumer” to Find a Cure

Avis_Richards_TheExaminerIt is circa 1970 and a couple in New York learns the difficult news that their young son had Type 1 Diabetes. Wanting the best for their son – this couple did not just take their son to doctors and hospitals for treatment. They simply could not – would not – accept the status quo. They decided to cast aside reasonableness and have an audacious dream. They, along with other parents whose children were diagnosed, audaciously decided to do what they could to find a cure. These were not doctors or health care professionals or people who ran big companies. But these were regular “Judy and Joe Consumers” who believed in their audacious dream nonetheless. That is how the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) started 40 years ago by moms like Lee Ducat and Carol Lurie. Then, along with other parents like Mort and Ellen Silver, these audaciously ordinary people put a practical plan in place to back up their audacious dream and the Promise Ball was created 38 years ago to help find a cure by funding a cure.

From that humble, yet audacious start – the extraordinary happened and the Promise Ball alone has raised an astonishing $55 Million over 38 years to support research to find a cure for diabetes. And the effort is yielding important results since leading experts like Dr. Camillo Ricordi, the Chief Academic Officer of the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute, believe a cure is within tantalizingly within reach. Now the next generation of audacious dreamers is continuing the tradition. This year’s Promise Ball, to be held on November 13, is being hosted by Tom and Natasha Silver (yup – Tom is Mort and Ellen’s son) for the New York Chapter Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Their second year as chair, Tom and Natasha devote their time and energy selflessly to get the job done. And their efforts paid off handsomely since last year’s event alone raised an amazing $1.9 Million. This is an accomplishment that is borne of (wait for it) audaciousness. Yet, despite all this extraordinary progress, a perverse trend is playing itself out. On the one hand, medical advances permit us imagine a world free of Type 1 Diabetes (where the auto immune systems do not function properly), yet disturbingly, diabetes is still on the rise – driven by an sharp increase in the incidence of adult-onset diabetes (Type 2)over the last ten years. Type 2 diabetes is much more influenced by environmental factors like bad nutrition, so when we look at the stats that describe the scope, it can be discouraging: Nearly 24 million American have diabetes; about 8% of the population:

o 18 Million diagnosed and 6 Million undiagnosed
o As many as 3 Million have Type 1 diabetes
Worse, over the decade, the rate of incidence increased by 50% from 16MM in 2000 to 24 MM today (*sigh*) o Worldwide, the disease affects 285 Million and is expected to reach epic proportions by 2030 of 435 Million people
CDC figures reports the significant health issues (like diabetes) resulting from obesitysince 1 in every 3 adults is obese and almost 1 in 5 youth between the ages of 6 and 19 is obese.
Most sadly, a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 30 seconds; more than 1.6 million people each year. o In New York where the Promise Ball first took hold, there are an estimated 1,127,000 diagnosed and 451,000 undiagnosed people with diabetes.
o Most staggeringly, the annual direct and indirect cost of diabetes in New York alone is $11.8 billion (insert “gasp” here)!

Holding_dads_hand_1It takes no small amount of audacity (or Chutzpah in Yiddish) not to get discouraged. But just like the Luries and the Silvers a generation ago, the audacious dreamers keep rising to take up the baton. While Tom and Natasha Silver focus their energy on the diagnostic aspect of the disease, a woman with another type of audacious dream is stepping into help on the “prevention” side of the equation. Her name is Avis Richards and, taking a cue from seeing how her son ate at school, she realized that often healthful eating is not a topic explored with intelligence in the media. She also understood that healthful eating is a cornerstone to preventing many diseases including diabetes. Her audacious dream, therefore, was to fill this information void. She decided to leverage the foundation she created, Birds Nest Foundation – a 501(c)3 non-profit creativegroup that produces high-quality documentaries, short videos and public service announcements (PSAs) for charities,to tell story of how good nutrition has benefits that scan a wide range of areas. As an award-winning producer and director with over 50 films, websites and events to her credit, Avis set about the task of creating and producing a 12 episode series called LUNCH, devoted to communicating the importance of proper nutrition at home, on the go and even in our institutions – like schools. Upcoming episodes cover topics like: “Updating the Diet”, “Good Food Quickly” and “The Cafeteria Challenge” (airing 10/28, 11/4 and 12/9 respectively) and will air on NYC Media – NYC’s public service station.

Here are just two examples of people who dared to have audacious dreams. They dared to believe that they could make a difference and change what needed to change. The Promise Ball celebrates its 38th year of being audacious and this year’s event on November 13 promises to live up to its “audacious” reputation. Birds Nest Foundation continues to provide a voice for causes that cannot rise above the day-to-day din that can drown out the quieter sounds of need.

Come along with us on this audacious journey. Lee, Carol, Tom, Natasha and Avis welcome the company. Learn more about the Promise Ball and JDRF and check out LUNCH at NYC Media.