Raising a Daughter to Conquer Diabetes
Photo by Gary Baker
“When a young child is diagnosed with diabetes it is a very maturing event for both the child and the parents,” says Dan Schimberg.
The Schimbergs learned their daughter’s diagnosis while on a family vacation in South Carolina.
“Robin was just 3 years old at the time,” Schimberg says. “She had finished dinner and chugged a huge glass of water, refilled and chugged it a second time. It struck us as odd to see her with this glass so large she could barely hold it with her two little hands and empty it two times.
“We called Robin’s doctor that evening and I drove her home the next morning. She was immediately diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and her blood sugar level was six times more than normal.”
A few days later, Schimberg reached out to the local Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation chapter.
“After contacting JDRF we began to get support from other families and parents, which helped us get settled into our new reality,” says Schimberg.
Schimberg says the technology to manage diabetes has improved dramatically since Robin, who is now 29, was diagnosed.
“The biggest lifestyle change for us was that we couldn’t go to sleep and just wake up in the morning anymore. We had to set alarms to wake us up because we had to test her blood sugars throughout the night,” Schimberg says. “We had to always be with her. Simple things like letting her go over to a friend’s house and play weren’t simple at all. At the time, parents of children with type 1 diabetes just had to always be manually monitoring their child’s blood sugars.”
The Schimbergs wanted to be sure that Robin, despite having type 1 diabetes, grew up strong and well-adjusted.
“We worked very hard to make sure Robin didn’t feel as if she was being treated special,” says Schimberg. “We wanted her to conquer and adapt. Even though this was very difficult to do, we tried to give her as much independence as we could.”
Schimberg has always returned to support the places that have helped him in life. Serving Seven Hills Schools and the University of Cincinnati, it was only natural to begin to volunteer at JDRF.
“After that first doctor’s visit with Robin, I immediately wanted to learn as much about the disease as I could,” says Schimberg. “And JDRF is really out in front, finding the cure by funding research. As an organization, it is heavily dependent on volunteers and my family and I really felt like we could participate and try our best to be helpful.
“Giving back to the community is extremely important to our family. We have all gotten involved with JDRF. Most notably, Robin works with kids who have been diagnosed and she and my son-in-law are members of the chapter’s Emerging Leaders Council. Along with other ELC members, they help plan the annual Bourbon & BowTie Bash fundraiser for JDRF each November, which has been a huge success.”
In the 1990s, Schimberg became president of the JDRF Southwest Ohio chapter.
“Early on when I was president, I made the decision to try and establish our office to be more like a business and less like an organization run by volunteers,” says Schimberg. “We made great strides and had a very effective board that have made us the leading office for a city our size. It’s really extraordinary.
“It was a very rewarding experience as I was not only helping raise the money, but I got to be on a board that helped decide which research grants should be funded. It really showed me the importance of each dollar being raised.”
During Schimberg’s two-year term, the organization went from raising $300,000 each year to more than $1 million. Schimberg credits the increase to refocusing on the types of fundraising events that were done.
“About 80 cents of every dollar goes directly to research,” says Schimberg. “And we wanted to maximize the amount raised through events within our limited amount of volunteer hours.”
Schimberg says he is most proud of being one of the founders of the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes program. Now a national program held in multiple cities across the United States, the ride started with the local chapter in Southwest Ohio in 1997. Beginning as a small local ride fundraiser in Blue Ash, Schimberg was part of a team of 17 people who shared a vision and took this small event to the next level, making it a 100-mile, moonlit ride through California’s Death Valley National Park.
“We were making around $10,000 annually with the Blue Ash Ride and expending a tremendous amount of resources to do it, but it turned out to be easy to get people interested in an exciting and much more serious bike ride,” he says. “That first year after launching the Death Valley Ride, we raised over $100,000. Today, it is a $5 million annual event that benefits JDRF nationally.
“The national JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes program is something that grew out of our chapter, right here in Southwest Ohio, and we are all very proud of it. This year we will celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the founding of the ride.”
The fundraising efforts have paid off as diabetes research continues to develop new, beneficial technology. Exciting treatments such as artificial pancreas technology and beta cell encapsulation have made great advancements over the past two years, and JDRF continues to focus on finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. In the meantime, the organization funds research efforts to improve the lives of those living with the disease.
“As devastating as the disease is, the management has improved tremendously, thanks to JDRF. The disease is not treatable, but it is manageable. Today, caregivers can remotely read and monitor blood sugar levels and those who have diabetes can have tools that give them a better ability to control their levels. This definitely wasn’t the case when Robin was young.”
According to Schimberg, perhaps the best innovation is the insulin pump.
“This wearable machine that is the size of a pager delivers insulin to a patient automatically through a thin IV tube inserted into the stomach instead of the patient constantly receiving shots,” he says. “So if you’re going to have a glass of chocolate milk and you know it’s 20 carbohydrates, you can tell the pump to deliver the insulin you need.”
Even though it’s been a long time since his daughter needed his help to manage her diabetes, Schimberg has continued to volunteer and be involved with JDRF.
“We have made great strides on the care and treatment of diabetes, but we are still on the threshold of actually curing the disease,” he says. “I don’t like to leave projects unfinished. I’ve given over 25 years to this and it’s something I’m sticking around for to the end.”
What is JDRF?
JDRF was previously known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Founded in 1970, the name was changed to JDRF since one of the many misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes is that it affects children, hence the fact that it was commonly referred to as “juvenile diabetes.” JDRF is the leading global organization funding Type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. With nearly 100 chapters and international affiliates, JDRF staff and volunteers work tirelessly each year to raise the money needed to fund critical research to cure, treat and prevent T1D. Locally, the JDRF Southwest Ohio chapter raises more than $3.45 million annually and serves more than 30,000 people in the Greater Cincinnati area who live with the disease. The chapter also provides outreach activities, educational opportunities and support to the local T1D community. The ultimate goal of JDRF is to find a cure and turn Type 1 into Type none.
Stop by the JDRF Southwest Ohio chapter in March or April and you’ll find a frenzy of activity as dozens of volunteers converge upon the office to plan for the annual Cincinnatian of the Year Gala. This will mark the 33rd year of the event, which consistently ranks as one of the top nonprofit fundraising galas in Cincinnati. Beyond being a fundraising powerhouse, however, the gala has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting events in the city, with an event program that takes guests on a rollercoaster of emotion. JDRF executive director Melissa Newman shares with Venue Magazine what it is that makes the Cincinnatian of the Year Gala so special.
Venue Magazine: What can guests expect at the gala this year?
Melissa Newman: As always, our amazing committee is going all out with the theme, which is “Superheroes for a Cure,” so there will be lots of bright colors, excitement and action-packed performances. The ballroom will look like a million bucks, but we always somehow manage to pull it all together on a shoestring budget thanks to our great partnerships with various vendors, as well as the creativity and hours of volunteer labor that the committee invests into the event.
Venue Magazine: How is the Cincinnatian of the Year selected?
Melissa Newman: JDRF is proud each year to designate the honoree of this important title, and we don’t make our selections lightly. In fact, the selection process is often completed more than a year in advance of the gala in which that person will be honored. We have a small honoree selection committee that helps weigh in with suggestions. The goal is to award this honor to someone who is truly deserving. Our past honorees list reads as a “Who’s Who” of Cincinnati and we want to uphold that high standard.
Venue Magazine: What makes someone deserving of the Cincinnatian of the Year title?
Melissa Newman: We very carefully consider the impact that a prospective honoree has made in making our community a better place. That includes not just personal and professional achievements, but also support of JDRF and the Greater Cincinnati region as a whole. Some of our prior honorees have had no connection at all to type 1 diabetes, so the most important consideration is the contributions that person has made to Cincinnati.
Venue Magazine: Tell us about this year’s honoree and why he was selected.
Melissa Newman: We are thrilled this year to honor Dan Schimberg, who is the president of Uptown Rental Properties and parent of a daughter with type 1 diabetes. Not only has Dan made a significant contribution to our Cincinnati community, but he has been a tireless JDRF supporter and advocate for over two decades. Dan is incredibly deserving of this honor and we are so appreciative and grateful to have him as part of our JDRF family.
Venue Magazine: How many JDRF galas have you led, and which is your favorite and why?
Melissa Newman: It’s hard to believe, but this will be my sixth JDRF gala. It’s nearly impossible to pinpoint my favorite. The toughest was my first one in 2012, since I had to take the lead staff role that year and only had a few months to plan it. At that point I had never even attended a gala, let alone planned one, so it was a little intimidating. I’m proud of the outcome, though, and while it was difficult, I find that one the most rewarding. Of all the gala years, each year had such a fun theme and awesome honorees and chairs, that they are all special to me in their own way. Since that year, thankfully I had a development manager, Rachel Hopkins, to serve in our chapter’s lead gala staff planning role, and she did a tremendous job in maintaining and elevating our gala as one of the best in the city. This year, Becky Gaible takes over this staff role alongside her volunteer partner and gala chair Petra Vester, and I can’t wait to see how she how she makes her mark.
Venue Magazine: What’s the hardest part of planning the Cincinnatian of the Year Gala?
Melissa Newman: The hardest part is competing with ourselves and always moving the bar higher than the year before. It seems like every year, guests come away from the gala raving about how this one was “the best gala ever,” and we continue to grow in terms of fundraising as well. So each year we really have to stretch and push to continue to outdo ourselves in terms of prior themes, entertainment, programming and – most importantly – fundraising. It’s a challenge, but an exciting and fulfilling one.
Venue Magazine: If someone attends the Cincinnatian of the Year Gala and they have no connection to type 1 diabetes, what will they learn that evening?
Melissa Newman: We work hard at the gala to tell the JDRF story and educate people about type 1 diabetes, in a way that is heartwarming and entertaining. We want our guests, especially those who don’t have a direct connection, to know that T1D is a very serious disease. We also try to help people make the distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes; the former is an autoimmune disease that can strike anyone at any age and at any time. The goal is for guests to come away from the gala knowing more about T1D, which is often misunderstood. We also want them to have an unparalleled experience so they will come back every year. We want to maintain the reputation of the Cincinnatian of the Year Gala being one of the must-attend events of the year.
Venue Magazine: Why would you describe your gala planning committee as “Superwomen of Cincinnati”?
Melissa Newman: I cannot give enough superlatives or accolades to our gala committee, most of whom are either mothers of children with T1D or who have the disease. These women are an absolute delight to work with, and they truly pour their heart and soul into this event every year. The creativity, hard work, kindness, perseverance and sense of community that these women exhibit is truly inspiring, and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work in partnership with them. Some of the committee members have been doing this for over three decades, but they simply will not quit until we find a cure for type 1 diabetes. I can’t think of a better word to sum up their efforts than “superwomen.”
Venue Magazine: Few nonprofit galas in Cincinnati manage to raise $1 million. How do you do it every year?
Melissa Newman: It is indeed difficult to raise that much in one event in one night, and we’re only able to do it thanks to the strength of our generous donors and corporate partners. We’re also very fortunate to have the active involvement of some of our past honorees like Dave and Kim Dougherty and George Vincent, who still help us fundraise every year. While a million is a tough benchmark to achieve year after year, we’re confident we will do it again in 2017. In fact, we really want to push ourselves this year to achieve our stretch goal, which would also be a new overall record of nearly $1.3 million. It will be a huge effort, but with Dan Schimberg as our honoree leading the fundraising efforts, support of our past partners and honorees, and of course our committee of Superwomen, I am confident that we can do it.
• JDRF 33rd annual Cincinnatian of the Year Gala: Superheroes for a Cure
• Honoring Dan Schimberg
• Saturday, May 13, 2017 beginning at 6 p.m.
• Duke Energy Convention Center
• Black tie; capes and masks optional
• Chaired by Petra Vester
• Sponsorship and ticket information at www.jdrfcincinnatian.org.