Bay Area T1D Community Bands Together for Puerto Rico

Our hearts go out to those in our extended type 1 diabetes (T1D) community who have been affected by the recent hurricanes. JDRF is partnering with several national diabetes organizations to provide emergency medical supplies in devastated areas.

Last week, a group of Bay Area residents identified an additional need, beyond what we normally think about in a humanitarian crisis. Linda Popky, JDRF Bay Area Marketing & Communications Committee Chair and mother of a daughter with T1D, is deeply concerned about what is happening in Puerto Rico. “Not only are people short of diabetes supplies, like after other recent disasters, but there is virtually no electricity on the island and it’s close to 100 degrees. This means it’s impossible to keep insulin cool,” she says.

Insulin requires temperature control in order to maintain its effectiveness. So, knowing firsthand how supportive and giving our Bay Area community is, Linda called on local diabetes organizations to help solve this urgent problem.

Linda connected with Lisa Katzki, CEO of Walnut Creek-based ReadyCare, the U.S. Master Distributor of FRIO® Insulin Cooling Products, and with Tamar Sofer-Geri, founder of the non-profit T1D support and advocacy organization Carb DM. Together, they were determined to take action.

The FRIO Insulin Cooling Case is a reusable evaporative cooler whose cooling properties do not come from an icepack – or anything that needs refrigeration. Its cooling properties come from the evaporation of water. When activated, it keeps its low temperature for a minimum of two days, even in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This was the low-tech answer the group was looking for.

Lisa, who is also a Registered Nurse, had already donated FRIO merchandise valued at nearly $5,000 to hurricane relief and was prepared to send more of these life-saving coolers to Puerto Rico at the heavily discounted price of $18 per large size case, which included overnight shipping.

Tamar set up a donation link on the Carb DM website to collect funds for additional cooling supplies, with 100% of donations going to this need. Linda and Tamar sent out email blasts and used social media to get the message out to their communities. Within 24 hours they raised more than $6,000, with the number approaching $10,000 as of Sunday evening.

Lisa and her team worked tirelessly to pack up the FRIO cooling cases for shipment to Florida immediately rounding up the number of cooling cases to an even 400. With the help of Los Angeles attorney Elizabeth Bell, who heard the call on Friday morning from Mayor Cruz for insulin cooling solutions, and Maruki Soto, who is on the ground in San Juan, the group was able to arrange a private plane through the Jorge Posada Foundation, a non-profit organization established by the New York Yankees’ and All-Star Catcher, Jorge Posada and his wife Laura. The Posadas together with Javi and Sylvia “Kiki” Figuero worked tirelessly to get the supplies from Miami to Puerto Rico. Bell and Soto also enlisted the help of Dr. Luis A. Pérez, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rico Diabetes Association, to be on the ground in San Juan to help distribute the cooling cases.

The group has proven that together, we are stronger. For more information about this effort, visit Frios4PuertoRico.org. To learn more about JDRF’s national hurricane relief efforts, click here.