By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes, with 1.9 million new cases diagnosed each year. What is also frightening is that sometimes, particularly in the case of children, the disease can strike unexpectedly.
This year, the Rotary Club of Westborough has chosen to focus on diabetes awareness as part of its fund-raising mission. On Aug. 14 the group sponsored a triathlon in Westborough in which 375 athletes of all ages helped to raise $3,500 for the ADA. And because education is also so vitally important when it comes to the disease, the club is also holding a Diabetes Symposium Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Mill Pond School from 7:30 to 9:30 p. m. All members of the public are invited to attend this free event, whether they have a family member with diabetes or not.
Westborough residents Bill and Beverly Linnanne know the impact of diabetes not just on the patient but also on the entire family. Over 20 years ago, their daughter, Jennifer, 43, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Five years ago, their granddaughter Maddie, now 9, was also diagnosed with the same disease. Surprisingly, Jennifer and Maddie are not mother and daughter.
Both Jennifer and Maddie are doing well managing their condition, Bill, who is also the Rotary's secretary, explained. Jennifer, he said, has made it her mission to not only educate but also to fund-raise for diabetes research. As such, she regularly participates in triathlons and bicycling events.
Living with diabetes can be difficult – not just for the patient, but for the entire family. It is the Rotary Club members” hope that the symposium will help local residents learn coping strategies, Bill said, and guide them toward necessary resources and support.
Karen Bagley, an associate manager with the ADA, will be the featured guest speaker at the symposium.
“There will be a few other folks – including Maddie – who have diabetes, speaking about a “Day in My Life” and explaining the daily challenges and routines, as well as things that are tough,” Bill said.
“The goal is to inform the public so that people will understand the disease. We want to reach out to those parents of kids who do not have diabetes, but may have friends with Type 1. We have to “normalize” the diabetes label so folks start to understand the issues.
“We really want to make it a hands-on, no-nonsense, down-to-earth presentation for lay people,” he added. “This is an event for everyone – adults and kids.”
Details on other guest speakers, including a doctor or researcher who can help explain the more technical aspects in laymen's terms, are still being finalized.
Bill said that the Rotary Club is hoping to reach out to senior citizens as well on the issue. The club is looking into possibly providing transportation for any seniors who are interested in attending the symposium.
Additionally, his wife, Beverly, is doing her part for the cause. She has created a 64-inch by 72-inch throw quilt that will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the ADA. Tickets are now being sold for $1 each or six for $5. Tickets may be purchased at the Verizon store in the Bay State Commons and will also be available the night of the symposium.
For more information on the symposium, call Bill at 508-366-2342 or 617-285-4664.