When Missy Maag’s 12-year-old niece Alex Oldham was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes almost six years ago, the family hardly knew what it was.
The diagnosis came three days before Christmas, when the family had gathered for the holiday.
“We were like, ‘What’s Type 1 diabetes?’” said Maag, who works for Bank of America in Charlotte. “It was very foreign to my family.”
Six months later, Maag decided to help out locally with fundraising for Type 1 diabetes research. She participated in the annual JDRF walk at Carowinds, and a few years later she trained for and ran a half marathon in Wrightsville Beach and raised money for research.
The race, though, was a let down.
“I felt nothing,” said Maag. “I said, ‘I have to do something.’ I hate that I trained this hard and nothing epic happened.”
Maag’s mom told her about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ride to Cure Diabetes. Maag, 54, didn’t really ride a bike, but she learned and trained for the one day, 100-mile ride and asked people she knew to support her.
Three years later, she’s raised tens of thousands of dollars for Type 1 diabetes research and is a board member of the local JDRF chapter.
“I went in (to the JDRF Ride) wanting to reach my own goals, and I came out wanting to find a cure for this and for my niece,” she said. “I came home and walked into the JDRF office and said, ‘What can I do? I will do whatever it takes to raise money to find a cure.’”
The JDRF Greater Western Carolinas chapter, which has offices in Charlotte and Greenville, S.C., is one of the top 25 fundraising chapters in the United States. Organization leaders hope its signature events will raise millions of dollars.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and the local JDRF chapter anticipates raising more than $1 million – a total it hasn’t reached since 2001 – at its JDRF Hope Gala on Nov. 14 in Charlotte, according to the JDRF Greater Western Carolinas chapter.
The 2015 JDRF Gala will honor Bank of America for its continued support and contributions to JDRF.
About 1.25 million people in the United States live with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that strikes both children and adults suddenly and is not related to diet or lifestyle, according to JDRF information.
People with Type 1 diabetes must constantly monitor their blood-sugar levels, injecting and infusing insulin through a pump and watching their food and activity.
Since it was founded in 1970, JDRF has given more than $2 billion to research in understanding T1D and finding a cure for it, according to JDRF.
“We are extremely appreciative of the tremendous support we continue to receive from the Charlotte community,” said Laura Maciag, executive director of the JDRF Greater Western Carolinas Chapter.
“Donations no matter how big or small are combined to help us get closer to our goal of turning ‘Type One into Type None.’”
The JDRF Greater Western Carolinas Chapter’s other fundraising efforts include the annual JDRF Kids Walk program at schools, where students learn about Type 1 diabetes and raise money.
The local chapter has the largest JDRF Kids Walk program in the United States, with nearly 40 schools participating and raising more than $220,000 in 2015, according to information from the JDRF Greater Carolinas chapter.
Maag said she has learned a lot about Type 1 diabetes from her participation in three annual JDRF Rides to Cure. Many fellow cyclists have Type 1 diabetes.
“You see (blood sugar) test strips all along the road that you’re riding on,” she said. “You see food at every meal (that are Type 1 diabetes friendly). They count their carbs. Everything is around living with T1D.
“It’s a remarkable group of people who are selfless, and I wanted to be part of that group.”
Since her first ride in La Crosse, Wis., Maag has ridden twice more and plans to take a group of riders from Charlotte to a new JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Amelia Island, Fla., next October. Maag, who raised $30,000 for her 100-mile ride in August, will begin fundraising in January.
An average of 35 riders from the JDRF Greater Western Carolinas Chapter participate each year in one of seven JDRF Rides across the U.S., and they have raised almost $400,000 in the past three years, according to information from JDRF Greater Carolinas chapter.
Maag’s enthusiasm for raising money for Type 1 diabetes research is infectious. Her niece Alex Oldham, who is now 18, has started helping newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes patients in her hometown of Louisville, Ky.
“I love my Aunt Miss,” Oldham said. “She has given me hope, and inspired me with her spirit and dedication to helping us all find a cure for T1D.”
Suzanne Oldham, Maag’s sister and Alex’s mother, said the Maag’s selflessness was inspiring.
“My sister Missy has always had a gigantic heart and given herself to help others,” Suzanne Oldham said. “With Alex’s diabetes, Missy has taken her giving to a new level. Not only has she raised money, trained for and ridden 100-mile bicycle fundraisers, but she’s also a role model for her niece and goddaughter Alex – and for us all.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to go?
A limited number of gala tickets are available; $250 per person. Details regarding the Gala can be found at www.hopegalacharlotte.com or by calling our Charlotte office at 704-561-0828
To learn aboutJDRF and Type 1 diabetes, visit http://jdrf.org.