We went to the JDRF Promise Gala in Indianapolis this past weekend.
This was our third time going in as many years, courtesy of my employer that is an event sponsor and offered us the honor of being able to attend such a great event we otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to attend (tickets to the black tie gala are quite costly). This year, we also had the chance to fill some other spots at this sponsor table so I was able to invite about six others who are friends and parts of the Diabetes Community.
It was a blast, and an incredibly awesome time as always.
The featured family at the event was the Koch Family, famous here in Indiana in that they are the owners of the theme park known as Holiday World in Southern Indiana. They have a very personal connection to diabetes, in that several family members are touched by it - and sadly they lost one of their own to it. Forty-eight year old Will Koch, who'd lived with Type 1 since his college days and went on to take over the family park, died in June 2010. His mom made a very touching speech, and she just felt very real. One part that especially hit my heart was her telling how her son would always be concerned when his own kids (non-diabetic) were excessively thirsty, and had them tested just to be sure. Then, there was a nice presentation honoring Will. After that, a father came to the stage with his daughter who's living with diabetes and they received an award, and there were some others who spoke and did all the formal award-presenting and recognitions.
The theme: "Fight For The Cure." As you might expect, from the name and this being a JDRF event, it was very cure-focused and there was much talk of moving ahead quickly and curing diabetes for the children. The glossy invites and programs were all very nice... marketing materials full of colorfully cute images of kids proclaiming their interest in fighting diabetes each day and fighting for that future cure - and encouraging event attendees from pulling out their pocketbooks to contribute toward that cure. From the high-priced golf vacations and resort getaways, to a NYC talk show package to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Letterman's Late Show that went for $6,000.
Our table joked about combing our auction bid cards for the several month-old Golden Doodle puppy named Yogi, hoping for a Diabetes Camp mascot, but alas we couldn't afford the $3,000 shelled out. Oh well.
I can only guesstimate that thousands and thousands were raised, but it seems pretty clear that some records may have been hit with 825 people attending and that being 18% more than years past.
That's all fine and very good. After all, it's what these formal fundraising events are mostly about.
For me, it was just being in a room full of people with so much passion and their own personal stories that makes it all hit home. Having those real, personal conversations with people and just feeling that connection that brought us all together in one place. It made me think about how progress really is moving forward, how I've felt that lately, and hope much hope there truly is in the research that's happening - all possibly because of this passion, this fundraising, and the whole game of advocacy that so many people and organizations are a part of.
I made a mental nod to all of the others, and brought myself back to the fact that this was a JDRF evening...
We had dancing. That was a whole bunch of fun, though it really did make me recall that even in my early 30s, I'm so very out of shape and simply don't have the moves that once decorated my dance floor repertoire. At least I was in the company of others who represented well and masked my aching leg syndrome!
More importantly, there was a lot of networking, with old friends that I hadn't seen in a while to those I've most recently met and others met for the first time that night. We had some great fun and conversation, and I'm happy to have had the chance to get some others there to the gala who might not have been able to attend - multiplying that networking even more!
There was some talk of blogging, and I heard one set of D-Parents say they were thinking about starting their own blog about their son's D-Life based on my own writing here (which was... a "wow" moment for this guy). Those diabetics at the table did some SWAGing on the dinner and dessert, and we all chatted the night away.
In the hallway, I ran into a fellow Adult Type 1 who I hadn't seen in a while and she mentioned reading my blog recently about heading off to the JDRF Government Day in Washington D.C. I recapped it briefly, and she asked point blank: "What do you think it accomplished?"
The question threw me for a moment, but it made me smile in thinking about what actually has already come from that - progress in helping diabetes research move forward thanks to Congressional letters to the FDA. Of course, I also helped spread word to those who didn't know about our local Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana Camp Until a Cure, and so that was great conversation in itself.
Overall, we had a great time and it was pretty cool to be a part of such a classy and formal event where so many people within the Diabetes Community comes together.
With events just like this and many others sprinkled throughout the world at so many different times, it's no wonder that we are moving toward something great. Not only a light at the end of a tunnel, but just the chance to achieve greatness along the way. That's what we are fighting for. Passionate people unite to make it happen all the time, and that's worth honoring.