A View of the World Through the Thoughts and Lens of Scott Kasper

Posts tagged “JDRF

Family

Webster’s Dictionary defines the word Family as a group of people united by a common affiliation or characteristics.

That definition holds a significant meaning for me and for my “family”. Using its most basic interpretation my family is defined by the following:

  • My beautiful, loving, patient, and devoted wife (who doubles as my best friend!!)
  • Three amazing children (it’s hard for me to resist insert bragging here!!!)
  • My wonderful parents who helped guide me to becoming the man that I am today
  • Two incredible brothers
  • A mother-in-law and father-in-law who love me as one of their own
  • Seven brothers and sisters-in-law (you could delete the “in-law” part…they all feel like siblings to me!!)
  • And fifteen nieces and nephews that would make any uncle proud every day!!

For better or for worse my life expands that definition, as I have a much larger family. At times I feel fortunate to be a part of this extended family. Other times I rue the day that we adopted each other into our respective lives. I know personally many members of this family, yet there are many others with whom I am united by our common affiliation yet I may never meet. Every day I hear about people who have become the newest members of this family, but who may not yet even realize that they are a part of something much larger than themselves and may or may not know that this family is there to support them. I have a love/hate relationship with this family; these are the family of people impacted by Type 1 Diabetes…all 3 million (and growing every day) of them!!!

There are some amazing kids (and parents) in this family whom I have come to know and love over the past 7 years since Jake was diagnosed. There are kids like my sons Jake and Matt, my mom (yup…she’s just a big kid), my sister-in-law Anne, and Cousin Zack, as well as Emily (actually two Emily’s), Chloe, Matt P, Avery, Aidan, Nate (whom I have come to know from all the way in Texas), McKenna, Evie, Ian, Kerri, Brian,  Mike and Joe…I could go on and on…but this family tree is just far too big.

Like all families, this one gathers from time to time. We have events like Galas, Walks, Golf Tournaments, Support Groups, committee meetings, and many more family reunions for various important reasons…whether we like it or not!! When my nuclear family meets, we discuss how the kids are doing in school, vacation plans, sports, and politics. It’s usually light hearted and focuses on the wonderful things that we all share.

When my extended family meets, however, we are focused on topics such as which model insulin pump is the best on market, whether or not insurance covers continuous glucose monitors, when the FDA will approve the closed loop artificial pancreas, and our latest experiences in area hospital emergency departments and pediatric intensive care units.

I am reminded of a saying: one can choose his friends, but one cannot choose his family. Well, I hope to prove that adage is wrong and outdated so that I can choose to no longer be a member of this family…that’s why I work tirelessly with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to help raise the funds needed by the world’s leading researchers to identify better treatments for today, and a cure for my kids tomorrow!! That’s why I am participating in this year’s JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Lake Tahoe on September 11. Click here if you would like to help by making a donation: http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper

You see if we raise enough money to fund enough research, we will find that cure for my family.

When that happens we will have another gathering…another family reunion. At that reunion we will celebrate our significant accomplishment. More importantly, at the end of that reunion, an announcement will be made to let everyone know that our family will be disbanding and there will be no more reunions!

We’ll still gather from time to time, but it won’t be the same. We’ll talk about sports, politics, vacations, and kids accomplishments in school. It will be light hearted because none of us will go home to put our kids to bed wondering whether or not they will wake up the next morning.

Our family will be defined as being a group of people united by victory over Type 1 Diabetes!

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Training for a Cure

Yesterday marked an important milestone…in exactly 8 weeks, on Sunday September 11, Rachel and I will be riding in the 2011 JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. On that day we will pedal the 78 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe along with groups of other folks riding for the same cause. My training for this started several weeks ago, and I must say that my physical conditioning has gotten noticeably better along the way.

Yesterday, as a part of my training, I participated in the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon here in South Jersey. Along with thousands of other riders who were helping to raise money and raise awareness for this important cause, I rode the 50 mile route…I started by myself, but after the first 15 miles I met up with some friends from my neighborhood with whom I ride during the week…that’s when it got really got fun!! We rode the next 30 miles at an average speed of 21 mph!!! I had no idea I could do that…felt like a Tour de France cycling star!!! Being a 40-something year old guy who just got back on a bike, I thought that this was a tremendous accomplishment!

Ryan took this photo of me as I crossed the finish at the 2011 ACS Bike-a-thon. The little green hat is Jake coming to give me a big hug!!

Why is this so important?? Why have we decided to to a bike ride this year?? Jake and Matt must live with Type 1 Diabetes every day, and until we find a cure, I will need to teach them at least two important things. First, they need to stay physically fit. By getting myself off of the couch and back into the saddle, I set a good example for them by making healthy living a priority. Second, and probably more importantly, by accomplishing things that I did not think were possible, I show them that they WILL be able to overcome the challenges put in front of them. Since I started my training rides in May, I have personally logged nearly 500 miles (about the distance from Washington DC to Boston!!!), and I will keep plugging away every day so that ultimately I can climb the mountain passes at Lake Tahoe and successfully complete this personal challenge that seemed a far reach just a few months ago. As that relates to our battle against T1D, we must keep traveling the road toward beating this disease one mile at a time, and eventually we will win the race for the cure!!

To that end, I still need your help! Our fundraising goal is set at $15,000 and we are almost there. Please help me in one of a few ways…first, please click or copy this link ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper ) and make a donation today!! Every penny counts and we appreciate any contribution no matter how large or small. Second, if you already have made a donation (for which we are very grateful!), please forward this note, share it on your FB wall, tweet it, or email it to your contact list so that others see that you have a friend in need of their help. I think you would be shocked to find out how many of your friends and extended family have some connection to this disease, and they just may be willing to help get us to our goal. Third, come out and help support our team!! The South Jersey JDRF riders who are training this summer for the Ride to Cure Diabetes would love to grow our group. If you are a cyclist, a beginner or a seasoned pro, come out for a training ride with us…just let me know your interested and I’ll make sure we add you to our list.

In exactly two months, Rachel and I will conquer the Tour de Tahoe and hopefully we will be $15,000 closer to conquering Type 1 Diabetes. I know we can accomplish both goals!!


Unfinished Business

Last night (Saturday April 9, 2011) was the JDRF Black Tie Gala to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. The of the Gala was “Unfinished Business”, as we will have unfinished business until we find a cure. Here is a picture that I took (it was used as the cover the of program book) of many of our kids who have Type 1 Diabetes with our Gala sponsor Brian Radwell.

I was honored to have been asked to provide the evenings Fund-a-Cure speech (see entire text below). As I spoke the photos that are imbedded below were projected on several large screens and monitors throughout the ball room. Immediately after my speech an auctioneer began asking the room to raise their hands if they can donate a certain amount….he started high ($25,000) and worked his way down to $100…in about 15 minutes we raised over $100,000 through generous donations of the 350 people sitting in the room….AMAZING!!! Below is a copy of my speech. If it moves you…if you feel like you want to help…please feel free to contribute by making a donation to the JDRF Ride for the Cure ( http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) that Rachel and I are doing in September. Our personal goal is to raise $10,000 and I think we can make it with a little help. Thanks so much!!

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Good evening. First and foremost, as a dad of two kids with Type 1 Diabetes and a member of the JDRF South Jersey Chapter Board of Directors, I want to thank you all for coming out tonight to help us in our mission to fund the cure for type 1 diabetes. As I look out across the room, I see several hundred of my friends and family all gathered to accomplish the same mission. I use the word family because, as I am sure all of you know, we all can relate to one another and the challenges we face on a daily basis in a way that non D families cannot imagine.

I have always believed that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud, and a reason behind everything that occurs. To that end, I am thrilled to have gotten to know each and every one of the members of this extended family, and have grown relationships with many of the people in this room that I know will last a life-time…that’s the silver lining. On the other hand, I have to be perfectly honest…I am dreadfully sorry that we ever had to meet!

We have all heard the saying that you can choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. I guess none of us had the choice to join this family. My mission is to prove that saying wrong by working tirelessly to fund the research needed to find a cure for type 1 diabetes so that we can all divorce ourselves from the clan. While I love you all, I just don’t want to be a part of this family any more! I want out…but I do want to be invited to the reunion. I want our outstanding Gala Chairs, the Petcoves and the Mogells, to begin planning a reunion gala so that this family can get together and reminisce about the trials and tribulations of what we used to go through before our kids, mothers, sisters, brothers and all 3 million Americans were cured! I want you to think about how you can help get us there through your generosity and support tonight. I want you to think about how truly important it is to all of us to find the cure!

Since family is my theme this evening, I want to give you a snapshot of the Kasper family…we don’t have a white picket fence or a cat or a dog, but aside from that we are the typical family living the American dream. When our nuclear family gathers we spend time comparing notes about work, we debate politics, and we talk sports. We also compare pump settings, count carbs, brag about our new glucometers, and wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning to check blood sugars. You see when my family gets together we have a group of type 1 diabetics that include 2 young boys, their grandmother, their aunt and their cousin…it really is a family affair.

But what is the impact? How has this shaped our lives? Why is so important to find a cure?

The bottom line is that life with type 1 diabetes, especially for these kids, just plainly stinks. It’s not easy…there’s one challenge after another. For example, whether it’s making a seven year old diabetic or a thirty-seven year old non-diabetic school room mom understand the importance of diet, it’s clearly a challenge. My seven year old will say something as innocent as, “but I only ate a small candy bar” when his blood sugar is 400, or the room mom at school who will say something like “he can eat anything at the party as long as I don’t put sugar on it”, life is a battle of managing normalcy with good diabetes health. Until we find a cure that battle will cause me to wake up every night, as I have for the past 7 years, to check my sons’ blood sugars, or to simply look in and make sure that they are still breathing and not in a hypoglycemic coma.

What about from the kids’ perspective? We are, after all, a family and their input matters? How do we know how they feel about it? One day, I set out to determine just that. First I approached Jake, who was 5 at the time, and asked him to tell me one word that described what it was like for him to live with diabetes.

He quickly and simply said, “Brave!” Having been diagnosed at the age of 13 months, he has essentially known no other way of life, but has been on the receiving end of needles and syringes ever since. He knows he has diabetes. He knows he needs to check his blood sugar. He knows he needs insulin. But at the time he was only 5 and doesn’t truly understand what all that means…he only knows he needs to be brave!

When I got done with Jake, Matt was my next target. He and Ryan (who is my middle son and does not have diabetes) were at the kitchen table. Matt is shy and reserved about expressing his feelings…typical pre-teen!! He was hesitant to engage in this exercise, but I kept pushing. In the mean-time, Ryan interrupted and was told to wait just a minute until I was done with Matt. The discussion ensued…Ryan interrupted several more times, and each time was told to wait with an increasing tone of sternness. Finally Matt said to me “it’s difficult.” I told him I knew it was difficult, but if he could just try to think of a word I would leave him alone.

“no Dad, that’s my word. My life is difficult”…from the mouth of a 10 year old kid!

So I was done focusing on Matt and Jake. I got what I needed. My goal had been reached. I was able to describe in one word and with a photograph, how diabetes had touched the lives of two of my sons. It seems that they are always the focus. At meal time its blood sugar checks and boluses. Family activities are interrupted because of emergency site changes. Plans are altered or cancelled because of ketones and sick day rules…all because of diabetes, and in Ryan’s young mind all because of his brothers….Oh, wait, I almost forgot. What about Ryan? He had wanted to say something while I was focused on Jake and Matt. Finally I gave him his turn. “I wanted to tell you my word,” he said.

“I wanted to tell you that diabetes makes me feel Invisible!”

This is very important to me, and I hope it is to you as well. The fact is that there are 3 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes. If the experience of my family is any indication of the impact of that, it means that there are 7.5 million people living in families with diabetes who are impacted as well. I would never presume to compare the impact of those who live with the diagnosis to that of those who live with the diagnosed, but the reality is that this disease has had a profound effect on all of us, and we all need to find a cure. We need to find a way that when Ryan asks, as he gets ready to go to bed, when it will happen to him that I can say it won’t…we found a cure, we discovered how to prevent, we were successful and we can protect you!

As I am sure you expect, I will end this speech with a plea to open your wallets and pocket books and contribute as much as you can to help fund the cure. Before I do that, however, I want to tell you one more story that illustrates the fact that this disease impacts every aspect of family life.

The kids decided that they wanted to play Sorry. I thought okay, that’s fun enough, and doesn’t last all afternoon the way monopoly does. Rachel was reading a book (if you can still call it a book when all one does is scroll from page to page on the Kindle), I was available, and it’s a game for four players….perfect!! Well, not exactly. One of the things my kids like to do most is NOT put stuff away when they are done playing. As it relates to this story, that means that there are no green Sorry pieces left.
“That’s okay Dad”, Jake said. “I know what we can use!” Off he went toward what we refer to in our home as “The Cabinet,” where we have a veritable pharmacy of diabetes supplies. Within moments he returned with four cone shaped objects, just the right size to substitute as a Sorry game piece. It did not strike me at first, but as I got my first turn I quickly realized that the pieces he had provided were, in fact, packaged needles for the insulin injector pen.

Diabetes has, in large part, impacted every aspect of our lives. About this, Rachel and I are very sorry! We’re sorry that two of our boys have to grow up with the daily complexities of life with diabetes. We’re sorry that my middle son wonders whether he will ever become diabetic, feeling invisible while he wonders. We’re sorry that, perhaps, something we did or something we genetically passed on has caused this to happen…on a daily basis we are sorry!

That day, without even missing a beat and without realizing how NOT normal this is, my six year old resorted to using insulin injection supplies to play a board game … not just any board game … a game of Sorry!

How ironic is that!

Please donate. Please give generously. Please help us raise the funds needed to enable the researchers around the world find a cure so that next year you’ll be invited to that reunion rather than another fund-a-cure Gala and that we’re all not sorry that we didn’t give more sooner!!

Thank you.

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Stepping up the pace

Rachel and I have decided to participate in the 2011 JDRF Ride for the Cure at the Tour de Tahoe. Please let me tell you why.

For the past several years my family has been involved in the Walk for the Cure. The Walk is the main event in JDRF‘s efforts to raise money to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Well, there is still no cure, and as a result 2 of my three sons must do many things every day that other kids their age don’t have to worry about.

  • My two sons still need to check their blood sugar multiple times every day.
  • They continue to be hooked up to continuous glucose monitors.
  • They get needle sticks to change those insulin pump sites every three days.
  • They go to the school nurse to have their blood sugar checked when other kids go right to gym or lunch.
  • They sit on the sidelines of the lacrosse game because their blood sugar bottomed out even though it’s their shift to play.
  • They watch other kids eat all of the things that they truly desire but know would be very bad for them to eat.
  • They have to remember to never leave the house without their “kits”…the supplies that the require to take everywhere they go.
  • They trade in their Halloween candy.
  • They wear medical identification everywhere they go…or at least they’re supposed to….(Matt, are you wearing an ID today???).
  • They add up every carbohydrate for every meal and snack they eat.
  • They end up in the hospital when they get a routine stomach bug.
  • They get woken up in the middle of the night, sometimes more than once, to have their blood sugar checked and they’re tired the next day because of it.
  • They have parents who have not slept through the night since the day of their diagnosis.
  • They have a brother who wonders whether or not some day he will become diabetic.

They have to do all of this, and more, in order to avoid immediate life threatening emergencies and/or long term co-morbidities of T1D such as heart disease, blindness, neuropathy, and kidney disease.

I’m tired of waiting for the cure…I’m tired of walking…it’s time to step up the pace!!

To those of you who know me, it’s no secret that I need to work on getting myself into better physical shape –  that is not an invitation for snide remarks in reply – You’ll see that I’ll handle that on my own shortly if you keep reading. It’s also no secret that Rachel and I have worked tirelessly to raise money to help cure Type 1 Diabetes. So, it seems that an opportunity to put the two together is the perfect combination!! This year our South Jersey JDRF Walk takes place on a weekend that we will be in Boston celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of one of our cousins. Although we won’t be here for our Walk this year, Rachel and I feel strongly that we need to continue our efforts in funding the research that will come up with a cure for our sons. At the same time we acknowledge that the training regimen for the walk does not accomplish my goal of losing weight and improving fitness.  So in an effort to continue our JDRF fund raising efforts, and in the interest of transforming my abdominal keg back into a six pack, we have decided to step up the pace of both our exercise routine and our fund raising.

Yesterday we registered to participate in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Lake Tahoe in September. We will be riding the 72 mile circumference of Lake Tahoe with lots of others who have the same goal. As we train over the next few months, and as we ride through the High Sierras, we’ll be focusing on that long list of stuff that my kids need to do, and hope that it inspires us to pedal our way through the ride to help cure Type 1 Diabetes.

What can you do to help? Well, if you’re up for one of the most scenic bike rides in all of the United States and want to help raise money for a great cause, then click this link to sign up and join us.

If you’re not that ambitious, but you are feeling generous, then please feel free to click in this link (http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/teamkasper) and make a donation to help support our cause….we would truly appreciate the support!

I know that riding 72 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains won’t be easy. But it’s nothing compared to the feat that my kids, and everyone else with T1D, accomplish every day in beating this disease. I know we can beat it for good, and I’m not gonna stop trying until we do!


Letter to Boards of Education

Dear Boards of Education:

I am the parent of three school aged children, two of whom have Type 1 Diabetes and I want to take a moment to educate you about a growing concern that I have about the health and well being of the students in your classrooms. Perhaps you don’t know, but November has been designated as National Diabetes Month, and November 14 was World Diabetes Day. The designation of this month is based upon some staggering statistics that, in my opinion, are not being taken seriously by our educational system – the place that our children spend the vast majority of their waking hours – and you are helping the problem grow worse.

According to statistics published by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association there are currently an estimated 18.2 million people in the US who suffer from Diabetes…that’s 6.3% of the total population. Further, they estimate that in the next 15 years another 44 million people will be diagnosed. Of those, as many as 3 million have Type 1 diabetes and more than 15,000 kids will become newly diagnosed in 2011…that’s one out of every 500 children under the age of 18. Among those 3 million kids are two of my three sons, Matt and Jake…and they’re in your schools!

So why am I picking on the schools? To be honest, I am perplexed and I need your help. In 2003, New Jersey (where I live) launched its Healthy Choices, Healthy Kids Campaign. Among the standards set in that campaign are the following:

  • Foods of minimal nutritional value may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.
  • All forms of candy may not be served, sold or given out as free promotion anywhere on school property before the end of the school day.

To any parent concerned about the health of their children, these standards ought to seem reasonable. However, for some reason nobody is paying attention and I want to know why. So, I have a few questions:

1. Why are my children allowed to spend their lunch money on candy, ice cream and soda, all of which are prominently displayed and sold in my children’s school cafeterias?

When my kids are at home they don’t get to have these things as routines snacks. They are reserved for special occasions and are not part of the daily diet. In fact, my kids love when we have freshly cut fruit and veggies on the table when they get home. I wonder whether our society would solve the ever-expanding (pardon the pun) problem of childhood obesity if these choices were systematically eliminated from their lunchroom options. If the school took a stand and eliminated 100% of this stuff, what would be the harm, and who would have the gumption to actually complain about it? The life a a kid with Type 1 Diabetes revolves around so many factors…candy and treats at school should not be one of them!

2. Why does nearly every day need to be a “special day” in the classroom, where parents are permitted to send in cupcakes, cake, brownies, candy and other  “treats” that have little or no nutritional value?

I’m not sure about you, but I see no need for my child to have cake and brownies at morning snack time, followed by a Pepsi and an ice cream taco in the lunch cafeteria an hour later. When I was a kid, we exchanged Valentines Day cards with our classmates and I would come home with a stack of notes asking, “Will you be my valentine?” My kids, on the other hand, came home with a bag of candy (contents shown in the photo below) that weighed nearly 2 pounds last February…it’s just not necessary! I must say that we are fortunate this year, because Jake’s teacher gets it and the junk in the classroom has been toned down.

Note to school systems: Please don’t call parents and complain that our children are hyperactive and out of control in the early afternoon and then seem sleepy and aloof by the end of the day when you have just provided them a week’s worth of sugar to rev their engines shortly after which they crash…it’s the system’s fault, not ours and not the kids!!

3. Why have seven (7) years gone by and no significant changes have been made based upon the aforementioned Healthy Kids recommendations?

It seems odd to me that my children learn about the Food Pyramid in health class, yet in the very building where they are taught about the relative nutritional value of their food choices, they are able to make every bad choice that just about any kid would make when their parents aren’t around. How ironic that my kid could take a test in health class and potentially get it wrong, when the poor food choice behaviors are being reinforced by the schools at lunch…right before that test.

Please understand, making these changes will not cure the Type 1 Diabetes that impacts my children…I know that. I’m also not blaming the schools for my kids’ disease. However, it is a huge, yet preventable, problem when my son has a blood sugar of 500 at the end of the day – which may easily have impacted his performance in the classroom – because he bought an ice cream and did not take any insulin to cover it. You see, Matt is a teenager and given a little freedom he does not always follow the rules and we do not know that he has done stuff like this until we download his pump and ultimately find that his HbA1c has gone from 7 to nearly 10 (yup…embarrassed to say that happened last year)!!!. That’s why we need your leadership and your help!

So, in honor of Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day, I am asking you to please help make our schools a healthier place for our children. Please pay attention to the 2003 recommendations. Please help my kids avoid having the long-term complications of a life with Diabetes that include heart disease, kidney disease, blindness, neuro-vascular disease, and more. Please become a partner with parents in educating and reinforcing healthy life-styles by fostering them in your buildings every day. If you can help me do that, I’ll stop picking on the school systems! Thank you.

Sincerely,

Scott Kasper, on behalf of many concerned parents

Oh – by the way – if you’re a concerned parent feel free to share a link to this entry with whomever you think might listen!!