Tag Archives: research

On Bread

April 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

It was the story I didn’t want to write—that one about what I call “my malady,” my three episodes of severely restricted eating. The first bout struck when I was 15, when, in response to difficult family circumstances, I limited myself to fewer than 600 calories per day. I calculated and tallied the calories for everything I ate; I chewed and spit out forbidden foods; I stripped down and weighed myself many times a day; I exercised too vigorously and for too long; I awakened in a panic from vivid dreams in which I was devouring doughnuts or pizza; I isolated myself from my friends and no longer ate meals with my family because of the all-consuming nature of my regimen. I lost weight so quickly and recklessly that I stopped menstruating and could barely get out of bed in the morning because of the anemia. But I felt safe and empowered because, through my self-restriction, I’d taken control of my frustrating life and unruly flesh.

Over a decade before Karen Carpenter’s death from anorexia nervosa, the event that awakened many Americans to the dangers of eating disorders, I had never heard of the condition. Apparently, neither had the pediatrician who examined me when I was my thinnest and most unhealthy. He simply told my mother that I needed to eat more, which eventually, I did. When I was 25 and left my family, friends, and hometown for a demanding job in a big faraway city where I knew no one, my malady returned in a less dangerous though more tenacious form. In spite of intensive psychotherapy, this bout of my malady didn’t start abating until three years after it started with the birth of my son.

Most perplexing to me was that when I was deep into middle age, a professor at a state university, the author of five award-winning books, the mother of an adult son and daughter, a homeowner, a church member, and a supporter of various worthy causes, my malady returned. Then, my weight dropped to a number on the scale that I hadn’t seen since middle school, as I whittled down my list of permissible foods until it fit on my thumbnail. Because of age-related changes in my bodymind, the departure of my grown children, and the loss of other significant people in my life, I was heartbroken and anxious. Just as when I was 15 and 25, I tightly restricted what and how much I ate as a way of keeping myself safe from what threatened me. But I couldn’t see what I was doing, much less link it to the two other times when eating too little had been so easy and gratifying. In fact, I didn’t know that I was sick again until my 20-year-old daughter told me that if I didn’t eat more, I was going to die. My blindness to my situation still astonishes and baffles me.

I didn’t want to write the story of an illness that many judge to be a character flaw, a moral failing, nothing but a silly, overzealous diet, or a childish attempt to get attention. I didn’t want to write a story in which I had to admit that I had a condition that usually strikes teenagers and young women. I didn’t want to write a story that would require me to re-enter, through memory and imagination, the dark periods of my life when eating less than my body needed seemed like a logical, fitting response to adversity. I didn’t want to write a story that was an illness narrative and, so, presents a version of the self that isn’t sound or fully functioning.

And yet, I felt compelled to write this story. In “On Keeping a Notebook,” Joan Didion advises us “to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” If we don’t, they might “turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.” What I had forgotten was the woman in me who sometimes found self-starvation and the taking up of as little space as possible so alluring.

To write the story of my malady, I had to educate myself about eating disorders and disordered eating. Eating disorders—anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder—are clinically defined and diagnosed, according to criteria set forth by the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Less well-known to most people is “disordered eating,” which Lauren Reba-Harrelson and the co-authors of a 2009 study define as “unhealthy or maladaptive eating behaviors, such as restricting, binging, purging, or use of other compensatory behaviors, without meeting criteria for an eating disorder.” “Other compensatory behaviors” include the use of laxatives, diuretics, stimulants, or excessive exercise to counteract the calories one has consumed.

I went into my research believing that eating disorders and disordered eating are caused primarily by unhealthy family dynamics and the message from the fashion, entertainment, beauty, and diet industries that nothing you are and nothing you’ve achieved matter as much as being thin. Now I know that those are but the easiest explanations and that they trivialize a complex problem. Aimee Liu, the author of Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders, compares an eating disorder to a gun: “Genes shape the gun, environment loads it, and stress pulls the trigger.” This felt true to me, so I went to work researching the genetic, environmental, and psychological aspects of eating disorders. From the studies I read by geneticists and neuroscientists, I learned that those with eating disorders and disordered eating can’t trust their brains to tell them the truth about when and when not to eat.

Several studies, for instance, have investigated variations on the gene for serotonin among the eating-disordered, since when people with anorexia severely restrict their caloric intake, their abnormally high levels of serotonin drop, and they report feeling calmer and less anxious; when those with bulimia increase their caloric intake, their low serotonin levels rise, and they report feeling happier. Another study found that those with bulimia and anorexia have an altered response in the insula, a part of the brain involved in appetite regulation, when given tastes of sugar, which means that they don’t accurately perceive signals about their hunger or satiety. Yet another study suggests that increased activity in the dorsal striatum leads to “maladaptive food choices” among restrictors, meaning that they actually prefer the plain rice cake over the Asian pear and smoked gouda panini.

From my reading in psychology, I learned that certain family structures and personality types were more likely to “load the gun” than others. Hilde Bruch, a psychoanalyst and pioneering researcher on eating disorders, studied the connection between disturbed interactions between a child and a domineering or detached mother and the development of anorexia, while psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin studied how “psychosomatic families,” especially those that are “enmeshed,” contribute to the genesis of eating disorders. For a 2004 study, Walter H. Kaye, the director of the Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research at the University of California-San Diego, administered standardized tests for anxiety, perfectionism, obsessionality, and eating disorders among individuals with anorexia, bulimia, and both disorders, as well as a control group. He found that 66 percent of the members of the three eating-disordered groups had “one or more lifetime anxiety disorders,” 41 percent had obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 20 percent had a social phobia. The majority of the eating-disordered study participants reported that the onset of their anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or social phobia had occurred during childhood, before the symptoms of their eating disorder manifested. Even those who had recovered from an eating disorder and were symptom-free “still tended to be anxious, perfectionistic and harm-avoidant.”

I explored various cultural factors that “load the gun.” Feminist theorists, such as Susie Orbach, Naomi Wolfe, and Susan Bordo, see anorexia as rebellion against or an over-conformity with Western notions of feminine beauty and power. Historians and medievalists weighed the similarities and differences between contemporary anorexia and the prolonged fasting of religious women in Europe in the late Middle Ages who sought worldly power and a deeper union with God through their austerities. Accounts by and about hunger strikers, whether the imprisoned members of the Irish Republican Army, the American suffragette movement, or those being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, present their fasts as the ultimate political statement and protest.

Clearly, eating disorders and disordered eating are due to a messy tangle of genetic and biochemical factors, family dynamics, individual psychology, and a wide range of cultural influences. Also clear to me is that my story isn’t unique. Experts say that about 10 percent of those with eating disorders are older women. But, says Dr. Cynthia Bulik, the director of the Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders at the University of North Carolina, the percentage is surely higher since most older women with eating disorders disguise or misread their symptoms as being due to a health condition or changes associated with aging, and so they aren’t included in the number of reported cases. In a 2012 study, Danielle Gagne and her research team found that women over 50 are engaged in unhealthy eating behaviors and thinking to the same extent that adolescents are. Most experts that I’ve read see a link between loss, grief, and depression as triggering the onset or return of an eating disorder in women who are middle-aged or older.

The loss and grief triggered by an empty nest, the death or relocation of several others who mattered to me, and an awareness of my own aging caused me to start restricting my diet again in 2011. But of all the factors that loaded the gun, two presented the most daunting challenges to my recovery. The values of hyper-consumerism was one. In “Hunger,” the Canadian writer and human rights activist Maggie Helwig says that it’s no accident that the widespread appearance of eating disorders in the 1960s and the epidemic of the 1970s coincided with the unprecedented growth of the consumer society, which places supreme value on one’s ability to buy goods and services. Helwig, who almost died from anorexia when she was young, observes that by the end of the 1960s, our material consumption had become “very nearly uncontrollable,” resulting in “what is possibly the most emotionally depleted society in history, where the only ‘satisfactions’ seem to be the imaginary ones, the material buy-offs.” Anorexia, then, is the “nightmare of consumerism” played out in the female body. “It is these women,” writes Helwig, “who live through every implication of our consumption and our hunger and our guilt and ambiguity and our awful need for something real to fill us … We have too much; and it is poison.” By not eating, the anorexic tells us that she’d rather be skeletally thin than ingest something that isn’t real or substantial. By not eating, the anorexic causes a cessation in ovulation and menstruation, rendering herself literally unproductive. By not eating, the anorexic refuses to be consumed by the act of consumption. Such self-denial in a culture of plenty is an audacious, radically countercultural act and statement. I extend Helwig’s metaphor to include binge-eating disorder (rapid, uncontrolled consumption with no “compensatory behaviors”) and bulimia (a refusal to complete the act of consumption by hurling out what one has just taken in) as responses to unrestrained consumerism.

The things, services, and diversions that money can buy can’t fill a hungry heart or lessen the pain one feels from a lack of meaning or purpose. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, what we’re truly hungry for can’t be bought. And what I was craving when my malady returned for the third time were a renewed sense of purpose and deep nourishing relationships to “replace” those that I’d lost.

This was easier said than done. The rise of consumerist culture has been accompanied by a decline in the number of close relationships among Americans of all ages. Instead of visiting and confiding in each other, we spend more and more of our time working and, in our leisure time, gazing at screens. Consequently, finding others with the time and desire for new friendships was challenging and at times, disheartening. But with prayer and persistence, I eventually found people who share my values and who enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs.

The other factor that made recovery during the third bout of my malady so challenging was that in my early 50s, I had become acutely aware of the effects of ageism. Because the master narrative our culture imparts about aging is that late midlife and beyond is a time of inexorable decline, marked by deterioration, powerlessness, dependency, irrelevance, and obsolescence, it is the fear of aging and even more, of ageism, that is the inciting force that triggers disordered eating in some women. I didn’t want to think about aging—my aging—and I certainly didn’t want to write about it. Yet, address it I must. In a 2011 study, a team of Australian researchers found that a group of women ages 30 to 60 with disordered eating who participated in just eight weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy focused on “midlife themes” were still doing better in terms of “body image, disordered eating, and risk factors” at the follow-up six months later than a control group that had not had the opportunity to explore these themes in a therapeutic setting. To counter the effects of ageism in my life, I now collect resistance narratives from women, role models, really, who live their later years with passion and purpose and on their own terms—Jane Goodall, Maria Lassnig, Gloria Steinem, Helen Mirren, Isabel Allende, and others, both famous and not.

Although I was reluctant to write this story, I did find pleasure in crafting Bread. And the act of writing was filled with many moments of self-revelation and one grand epiphany: that there are aspects of my malady that are within my control (how I respond to ageist, hyper-consumerist, and patriarchal values) and some that are not (genetics and brain chemistry: my hard-wiring). Now, I know what I can fight and what I must gracefully accept.

When people asked me what I was working on as I was writing Bread, I reluctantly told them about the story that I didn’t want to write. I found that most were not only interested, but they wanted to tell me their stories about being in the grip of something beyond their control that lead them to eat too much or too little, about feeling shamed or misunderstood because of this, about the familial tensions or social costs or the ill physical effects that resulted from their unhealthy relationship with food and self. Some told triumphant stories about the residential treatment, the counseling, the spiritual practice, the religious conversion, or the supportive loved ones that saved them. But some were in the thick of it. Many were grateful to be given a name—disordered eating—for what they were experiencing and to know that this could afflict anyone of any age and circumstance.

Many were grateful to learn that the reasons they were stuffing or starving were more complex and nuanced than their having played with Barbie dolls as children or having conflicted relationships with their mothers.

The deep story I’ve heard in each of these testimonies concerns the tellers’ hunger for wholeness and fullness. Now, I encourage those who tell me their stories to ask themselves a difficult question—What am I truly hungry for? —and then answer it with courage and honesty. I’m hungry for companionship. I’m hungry for solitude. I’m hungry for reconciliation. I’m hungry for meaningful work. I’m hungry for less busyness or the opportunity to paint or dance or fight for social justice. Then, I urge them to bring that source of nourishment and sustenance into their lives. Some women thanked me for writing Bread before they’d even read it.

When I consider how frankly confessional my story is and how controversial some will find my interpretations of the research, I squirm and second-guess myself. But then I remember that I am safer from relapse because I understand what I can and can’t control and because I’m far less likely to forget, as Didion says, “the things [I] thought [I] could never forget.” And, too, I feel full knowing that people are finding self-knowledge, nourishment, hope, and strength in the story that I didn’t want to tell.

Lisa Knopp, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s English Department. Her recent book, Bread: A Memoir of Hunger, was published by the University of Missouri Press in 2016. Visit lisaknopp.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of 60 Plus.

How to Make a Coffee Filter Lamp

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Light is to what punctuation is at the end of a sentence.

If I had my way, there would never be any traditional lighting—especially fluorescent lights, as they are often too cool and tend to distort (in my opinion, making everything look worse).

So, when deciding upon lighting options for the room that I am remodeling, I opted for a softer look to establish a welcoming mood.

This soft accent light will not be the primary light source in the room; rather, it will be more of a glowing art installation hanging in the room.

There will be plenty of natural light coming through the large window as well as several other lamps in the room.

I truly feel that without choosing the correct lighting in the beginning, the whole room won’t have that wow factor in the end.

My inspiration was something I saw on the internet several years ago. At the time, I didn’t have the space to make it work. But I do now!

The final renovation of the room will be unveiled in the grand reveal to be published in the January/February issue of Omaha Home.

Remember, you do not have to compromise beauty and function for cost. Do some research and find what fits your space and style. Try out your own DIY project. That’s what this year-long project is all about.

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Paper lantern (I used a lantern 16 inches in diameter.)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Large package of glue sticks
  • Basket-type coffee filters (I used 800.)
  • Patience (The project can take approximately 6-7 hours.)
  • LED light with remote or single-socket pendant light. Both are extremely inexpensive. There are many options. To be safe, please do your research. You don’t want to create a fireball!

DIRECTIONS:

Step-1: Fold or crinkle each coffee filter at the bottom.

Step-2: Glue each filter directly to your paper lantern.

Step-3: Place as many filters as close together as possible.

Step-4: Cover the entire surface of the paper lantern.

Word to the wise: If you want to take this project on, I suggest watching online tutorial videos for added guidance. Simply searching for “coffee filter lamp”  tutorials online proved to be extremely helpful for me. The project is simple, but it can be very time-consuming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

 

Joan Lukas

January 13, 2017 by
Photography by Ani Luxe Photography

This native advertisement appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/40

Lukas Partners president and owner Joan Lukas says the company has been woman-owned since its founding in 1973. It provides smart public relations and fund development solutions that are continually recognized with PRSA Paper Anvil and Best of B2B awards.

“Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, as they drive 80 percent of all consumer purchases,” Lukas says. As the largest public relations and fund development firm in the Midlands, Lukas Partners helps clients engage women and other key audiences in many ways, including effective blogger relations, news media placements, popular events, capital campaigns, and other successful communication strategies and tactics.

Expertise in strategic communication planning, news media relations, social media, fund development, event management, and research help clients engage audiences through award-winning public relations and fund development. The firm helps reach the right audiences with the right messages.

lukaspartners.com

LukasPartners2

 

Choosing a Roofer

August 29, 2013 by

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like home.” For most of us, our house is our most expensive investment, as well as our pride and joy. Therefore, when choosing a contractor to remove and replace your roof, it’s essential to do some research first.

Following the Omaha hailstorm on April 9 this year, many of us were barraged with phone calls, doorknockers, and direct mailers from roofing companies. It can be overwhelming. Here are a few pieces of good advice to follow when selecting a roofing company for repairs:

  • Take your time and try not to feel pressured into making a rash decision. Remember, you are the customer, and you pay your insurance premiums.
  • Check the yellow pages. Many contractors (sometimes known as storm chasers) come from various places (Texas or Colorado, for example) to set up shop temporarily to get your business. They create a phone number with the local area code, and they would NOT be in the Yellow Pages.
  • Ask lots of questions. Where are they from? Where is their office located?
  • Ask your insurance adjuster, friends, family, and neighbors who they recommend. There are advantages of using a local roofing company, such as creating relationships among neighbors to help build the community. By using local products, local companies do their part to build the local economy.
  • Most importantly, a roofer is not going to guarantee another roofer’s craftsmanship. By having a local roofer, not only will you be supporting your local community, you will save time, money, and headaches if something was done wrong and/or needs to be repaired. The level of customer service is at a much higher standard because of proximity.

For more information or an estimate, visit SosMyRoof.com or call 402-830-0449.

Finding a Summer Tutor

June 20, 2013 by

As a parent of three kids, I know the challenge of helping my own children with their homework—especially if they are really struggling. Even though I spent years as a classroom teacher, my own children seem immune to my “instructional savvy.” Instead of battling with them, I have chosen to turn to a tutor.

If you are considering hiring a tutor, I suggest reading Carole McGraw’s “Four Steps to Finding an Excellent Tutor for Your Child” on readingrockets.org. Here are a few of her suggestions in condensed form:

First, ask for suggestions from your child’s teacher about what he or she needs to work on. Before you start, know what your child needs and the goal of tutoring.

Second, know your child. How does he or she learn best? Look for someone you think would connect with your child and make learning fun.

Third, research your options. Before heading to a tutoring company, consider all possibilities. Ask if there are free options available through your child’s school. Some schools provide time before or after school for review. If this isn’t available or doesn’t do the trick, ask the school counselor how you might find a tutor outside of the school environment. Asking friends, relatives, neighbors, the local high school, the local community college/university, or posting on Facebook may provide some great resources. Be sure to ask for a résumé to check credentials, look for teaching experience in the specific subject area, check references, and meet with the person before the first session. It is wise to supervise the tutoring sessions until you and your child become more comfortable with the person.

Finally, think about how your child learns, and work with the tutor to design an age-appropriate learning plan. There are so many fun, innovative ways for children to review skills and content beyond the standard worksheet approach. Find what works best for your child. Sometimes learning a new skill or reviewing missing areas is all about finding a different approach.

JDRF

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Diabetes has long been thought of as a single disease only suffered by the overweight, the unhealthy, the elderly, or those with family members who have had diabetes. And while that might be true of some people with the more common type 2 diabetes, it’s not the case with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

“Type 2 diabetes is very different from T1D, as it is considered preventable and treatable,” says Brevard Fraser, Executive Director of the JDRF Heartland Chapter, which includes both the Omaha and Council Bluffs areas. As it stands today, there are no biological cures for T1D, which is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It can occur at any age, and the exact cause is unknown.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has been behind T1D research funding, working to improve the lives of all people affected by accelerating progress on the search for a cure, better treatments, and ways to prevent T1D. Today, JDRF is the leading global organization focused on T1D research and has contributed more than $1.6 billion to finding a cure.

“Incidences of T1D are on the rise, and JDRF is the first stop of support for those just diagnosed,” Fraser explains. “We can provide education, mentors, outreach, and the opportunity to be a part of finding a cure, and so much more for those affected by T1D.”

Despite what many people think, Fraser and those affiliated with JDRF know that T1D is a very complicated disease. “From those who are diagnosed at 9 months to those living with T1D for over 40 years…The daily regimen [they] have to live with every day of their lives—it blew my mind away!”

One person who would agree with Fraser is Omahan Daron Smith, who was diagnosed with T1D in 1970—coincidentally, the same year JDRF was founded.

According to Smith, T1D is best understood by the illustration of an old teeter-totter. But instead of being a regular teeter-totter, this teeter-totter is held up by a pencil and has three wooden planks joining in the center. One of the planks represents food intake. Another represents insulin intake. The last represents the exercise, emotions, and stress in life. “I am attempting to keep a perfect balance of my blood sugar levels with all three of these [planks] hitting me at once, all day every day,” says Smith

Smith grew up in the Omaha area. After spending some time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he began his career at a young age, working for Better Business Equipment, a company started by his father, Coyner Smith, in 1968. When his father retired from the company in 2000, Smith took over as President.

“The funding raised by JDRF is making huge strides for the individuals who deal with this disease…There is significant progress toward a cure and much better treatment.” – Daron Smith

Despite his demanding career and raising 11-year-old son Joshua, Smith has a more overwhelming issue that constantly needs his attention—the injection of insulin into his body on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. A healthy pancreas will keep the body’s blood sugar level at about 80-100 all day regardless of activity, food intake, or stress. But for a person with T1D, like Smith, the levels must be managed in order to live. “My goal is to keep my blood sugar levels between 80 and 160. When my blood sugar levels get below 60, it causes major problems; and when it gets above 150, it will cause long-term, significant health issues, many of which are life-threatening.

“I decided a long time ago that I have to look at life with diabetes with a glass-half-full attitude.” Fortunately, Smith hasn’t had to rely solely on positivity to get him through the struggle.

“With the funding that has been raised for diabetes research through JDRF, tools like the insulin pump and the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) would not have happened…Before I switched my insulin delivery to an insulin pump, I would deliver the insulin through the use of syringes. I’ve estimated that, in my lifetime, I have taken over 25,000 insulin injections.” JDRF’s research is why Smith now uses some fairly sophisticated technology to stay on top of his diabetes. “I use an insulin pump to deliver my insulin, and I also use a CGM to monitor my blood sugar level, as well as a glucometer to verify my blood sugar levels.”

Smith is also blessed to be on the Heartland Chapter’s board of directors. Through that connection, he says that he has become aware of how close we are to finding more significant, life-altering technology for those with T1D. “The funding raised by JDRF is making huge strides for the individuals who deal with this disease…There is significant progress toward a cure and much better treatment.”

Although JDRF is growing nearer to a cure for T1D each year, Smith hopes it comes soon, as it saddens him to think about the parents who have to help their children take thousands of insulin shots and prick their fingers six to 10 times a day for their entire life.

Cindy Irvine, who has volunteered with the Heartland Chapter for the last 10 years and is a former president of the board, says she is fortunate to have not been one of those parents. Her younger son, Tyler, was diagnosed with T1D at 14, which initially gave her the desire to work with the organization.

Cindy Irvine's son Tyler has T1D. She also volunteers with and is a former board president of JDRF Heartland Chapter.

Cindy Irvine.

“We were actually very blessed because he was older when he was diagnosed,” she says. “We had a lot of support in the medical community, as well as in our social community. He was pretty much able to give himself his own shots, and he knew he had to test his blood sugar.” Although her son was well adjusted to the management of his T1D, it doesn’t mean Irvine wasn’t occasionally at his school reminding teachers or coaches of his diabetic needs.

“JDRF, especially the Heartland Chapter, is doing such a great job educating people about what T1D is through their outreach programs and events.” – Cindy Irvine

Today, her son is 24 and has kept himself quite busy. “He just spent a year in Thailand, he spent a semester abroad in Mexico, he went to the Dominican Republic through a Creighton University program, and he’s now studying to get his master’s degree in public health.” While her son has traveled, Irvine has been constantly working with him to make sure he is managing his diabetes properly. “I don’t think people understand. When you go abroad, the supplies you have to take are massive. We sent six months of insulin with him when he went to Thailand, and then my husband and I flew over for the next six months. [Tyler] carries around a lot of stuff. He started carrying a ‘murse,’ which he said stands for ‘man purse,’” she adds with a laugh.

Irvine believes that the Heartland Chapter has done so much to provide help for children with diabetes and their parents. “There are so many resources that you really can’t get anywhere else—information on how to fill out the forms for school to make sure they’re getting the right care or how to prepare a child to go to college, and there are great programs to help parents and kids go through the transition after the diagnosis.

“I think there’s a lot of preconceived ideas about what diabetes is,” adds Irvine. “JDRF, especially the Heartland Chapter, is doing such a great job educating people about what T1D is through their outreach programs and events.”

As the chapter grows, greater emphasis is being placed on outreach efforts. The Bag of Hope is an education and outreach program available through the chapter that is designed to reach young children and teenagers with diabetes and their families at the time of diagnosis. The Bag of Hope contains a comprehensive collection of educational and comforting materials for the entire family. The chapter’s long-range plans include the establishment of support groups covering topics from initial diagnosis to adolescence issues and beyond.

Each year, the Heartland Chapter also holds two annual fundraising events: Walk to Cure Diabetes and the Promise Gala. This year’s Walk to Cure Diabetes in August raised more than $750,000 for diabetes research and included not only the traditional walk but also a T1D 5K Dash. Like the Walk to Cure Diabetes, the Promise Gala is another large fundraising effort during the year. “Funds raised during the Fund a Cure portion of the evening go directly to research—not overhead or events costs or anything else,” explains Fraser. “We also educate those new to JDRF through video presentations on cutting-edge research, as well as the very personal stories of children, adults, and families living with the burden of T1D.”

The 16th Annual JDRF Promise Gala will be hosted at CenturyLink Center Omaha on February 23. The theme of the evening is “Hit T1D Out of the Park – We’re Bringing Home a Cure!” The event will start at 6pm with cocktails and a silent auction, followed by dinner and a special program. Dress code for the event is cocktail attire (black-tie optional).

For more information about the JDRF Heartland Chapter or to reserve tickets for this year’s Promise Gala, visit jdrf.org/omaha or call 402-397-2873.