In each of our lives, there are myriad obstacles that shape our existence. For some of us, those tribulations come in the form of catastrophic events, disabilities or even socioeconomic status. However, some people’s lives are altered whenever the body doesn’t work as it should. The betrayal of one’s own vessel can prove an immense struggle to deal with through the routine happenings of daily life. Such is the case for those afflicted by type 1 diabetes.
With type 1 diabetes, which often is diagnosed in childhood or young adulthood, the body does not produce insulin—a hormone that converts sugar, starches and other food into usable energy. It’s an autoimmune disorder, wherein antibodies combat the work of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Consequently, those dealing with type 1 diabetes must constantly monitor their blood-sugar levels and take insulin though injection or an insulin pump. Such precautions and the preventative administration of medication can greatly impact the lives of those grappling with the disorder.
Fortunately, the human spirit is one of resilience. Throughout the Port City and the world over, courageous and compassionate individuals and families seek to find a lasting cure and raise awareness and funds. Put on by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Coastal Carolina Branch—which serves nine area counties through galas, walks and an educational symposium—the 11th annual Hope Gala will take place Saturday, May 16.
Since the gala began in 2004, the fundraising efforts and size of the crowd pouring in for the black-tie affair has doubled. Typically, over 350 guests show up in support of the cause, which results in nearly $380,000 raised each year.
“All JDRF funds go toward research and research-related education to find a cure for type 1 diabetes,” Erin Mabry, director of the Coastal Carolina Branch, tells. “Over 80 percent of JDRF funds goes directly to research. On the night of the event, 100 percent of our Fund A Cure pledges goes toward research.”
This year’s goal is $420,000, and the event will be themed “Hope Rises Above.” The evening’s slogan, aside from carrying an overarching sentiment of persistence, comes in conjunction with the 2015 Living and Giving Award (which hails the dedication and commitment of local families or businesses toward JDRF) honorees, the Scott family. Paige Scott was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at only 28 months old. Rather than being consumed with fear and a sense of defeat, the family, including parents Dave and Shannon, have helped out with innumerous outreach efforts for JDRF. Though Paige is now 16, her mother lost her battle with lung cancer last year, making this a bittersweet award presentation. The gala’s Hope Rises Above motif truly captures Shannon’s butterfly-like spirit and perseverance in championing the continued fight to find a cure.
Likewise, the event will be hosted for the 11th year by WECT and Fox Wilmington anchor Jon Evans. Evans’ father died as a result of complications from type 1 diabetes in 2001. Since, the popular local anchorman has become a crusader for the cause.
“While I remember watching [my father] check his blood sugar regularly as I grew up, I never knew much about diabetes and how it can effect someone’s health until his condition worsened,” Evans says. “After my father passed away, I was looking for a way to honor him, by working to raise awareness about the dangers of diabetes. Erin Mabry with JDRF contacted me around that time, and since then I have worked with her and tried to do what I can to help in the effort.”
Evans has hosted 14 JDRF walks locally. For him, it’s all about the pleasure of having people approach him at diabetes-related events to share in how their lives have been improved by the nonprofit.
“[Diabetes] can strike any family at any time,” Evans articulates. “I’ve known many healthy adults who have suddenly been diagnosed with diabetes, and many families with no history of diabetes who have children diagnosed at a very young age. It knows no income level, age, race, or religion. While it is in no way easy, breakthroughs have made living with diabetes easier everyone. I think people need to know about the warning signs and symptoms, so if they show up in your child or family member, you can take action to get proper care.”
Working for the cause for so long has afforded Evans the opportunity to see many people like Paige grow and prosper, thanks to the medical developments that make coping with the diabetes possible. “It’s always heartwarming to see them flourish when I know the daily tasks they perform to manage their conditions,” Evans says. “There are many families that have been the backbone of this effort since day one, and I enjoy spending time with them as we work toward finding a cure for diabetes.”
Though the gala will pay all its due reverence to the cause, it’s still a celebration—a celebration of the voices and hands that rally together each year. As such, live acoustic music from Ken Block and Drew Copeland of Sister Hazel will be a part of the evening. Sister Hazel—an alternative rock band from Gainesville, Florida—is known for divergent sounds of folk rock, pop, classic rock ‘n’ roll and Southern rock. Many know them from their 1998 Billboard chart topper, “All For You.”
The event will have a silent and live auction full of plenty of worthy prizes—from VIP baseball tickets, to cruises, to fine-dining experiences. Cocktails will make their rounds, and dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. Folks can head over to www.jdrfhopegala.org to pledge a donation. Entry is $200, with sponsorship levels capping at $25,000.
“When you can improve someone’s life with the work you do, that’s special,” Evans concludes.
JDRF Hope Gala
Wilmington Convention Center
515 Nutt Street
Saturday, May 16, 6 p.m.