March 2015 Cure Champions


The Doak Family ~ Travis, Donna and Jim

In 2007, by grandson, Travis, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) two days after his 12th birthday.  It ranks up there as one of the worst days of my life.  I took him to the doctor because he was drinking so much, and he was in the bathroom during the night more than he was sleeping.  I don’t know how I knew, or even where I had learned that this was a symptom of diabetes.  After a urine test and a finger prick my worst fears were confirmed.  Now, how do you tell a 12 year old what diabetes is, when all you know about it yourself is that people who have it, must take insulin?

We rushed from the doctor’s office directly to Boston Children’s Hospital.  No time to make phone calls or even pack a toothbrush.  After being admitted to his room, Travis was told that he was not too sick to get up and walk around—that most of our stay in the hospital would be learning about how Travis will need to take care of himself. I remember taking him for a walk around the hospital ward and pointing out all the children with “real” problems, such as a heart transplant for one little girl, another child was having surgery on a brain tumor and yet another had cancer.  I was trying to show him that no matter how devastating his diagnosis was there were others who had bigger problems than he was facing.  I told him with all the advances they were making in medicine; there would be a cure someday.

Early in the fall of 2007 someone sent me an email with a video of a little girl changing her pump site and checking her blood sugar.  It was a heart-wrenching video. The video was so powerful, that I started to investigate where it had come from and eventually it took me to the JDRF Walk site. Right then I knew we needed to form a team and walk.  Travis’ Troopers was formed, and we had 24 friends who joined to walk with us. I knew this would be a great experience for Travis—a time for him to be around other kids who had the same issues.  I think we raised $3,700 that first year, and in the 7 years we have been involved with JDRF, we’ve raised over $30,000 to help find a cure, not only for Travis, but for everyone with T1D.

In January in 2008, I got a phone call from the Manchester Events Coordinator asking me if I would be interested in joining the Walk Committee for the next walk. At first I thought, I’m overwhelmed right now with a very demanding job and a 12 year old with diabetes. But, my husband, Jim, talked me into going to just one meeting to see what it was all about.  Well, it’s 2014 and I am still doing whatever I can to help JDRF.  I have been on the Walk Committee for 7 years, and I am also on the Gala Committee.  I have helped in the office with getting auction items ready for Gala. I have now managed the Walk raffle over the past 5 years. I have been a mentor to new Walk teams. I have helped out as a volunteer for the Fresh Market barbeque, Vineyard Vines Night of Giving, along with many other events. I am kind-of the Northern New England Branch’s “Girl Friday”.  You need something and I can help…just call.

My husband, Jim, became involved in JDRF by osmoses! During the first Gala I attended, I commented as to why no one was taking pictures of this event. I was told there was no budget for it! It just happens that my husband is a professional photographer, so you can see where he came in.  He is now the official volunteer photographer for Gala, Walk and anything else JDRF requests. He donates his photography services where needed, as well as donates to the Gala auction with gift cards for photography and framed pictures for auction, as well as items for the Walk raffle.

Jim and I have both seen the great things that JDRF has done with their research. The artificial pancreas, pumps that have continuous blood glucose monitoring, many things I told Travis 7 years ago would come to change his life with diabetes.  He is now 19 and I still have hope that by the time he is 25 there will be a cure!  I want to be part of an organization that is working toward a better life for the millions who suffer from T1D.  Thanks to JDRF, for all it stands for, and all it will accomplish in the future; a future that will make the lives of all people with T1D a better place.

Submitted by:  Donna Doak