GREENSBORO, N.C. — In the 15-county area served by the Piedmont Triad chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an estimated 120,000 people live with the disease.
This year, the Greensboro-based chapter expects to raise $2.5 million to support research on the disease.
That includes $1 million the group aims to raise at its Annual Hope Gala, to be held Feb. 26 at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, a fundraising total that would be the highest ever for the event since it began in 2001.
Spearheading the fundraising effort is Paul Fulton, a former president of Sara Lee Corporation who also will receive the chapter’s Beverly Berry Living and Giving Award at the event.
“It’s very obvious that he has a commitment for making a difference in the lives of others,” says Mike Conrad, executive director of the chapter. “It’s very personal to him.”
Fulton, board chairman at Virginia-based Bassett Furniture Industries and a former dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, set a personal goal of raising $1 million for the gala, and already has raised over $700,000 through relationships with professional colleagues, Conrad says.
Presenting sponsors for the gala include The Fresh Market, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Hanesbrands, Lowe’s Companies and BB&T.
Fulton began his support three years ago when his grandson, then age 7, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
“He gets very emotional when he talks about his grandson and the regimen that he has to follow because of living with diabetes,” says Conrad, who was 16 years old when his father died from complications of Type 1 Diabetes.
Diabetes patients must monitor their blood sugar at least six times a day, typically through pricking their fingers, and must monitor their intake of carbohydrates.
Conrad served on the chapter’s board in the 1990s and became executive director after retiring from a career as a divisional controller for AT&T and Lucent Technologies.
“I said I would do it temporarily,” he says, “and now have been doing it for 11 years.”
Operating with a staff of five people, the chapter also raises money through four annual walks in Burlington, Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
Last year, those walks attracted 5,000 people and raised a total of $1.1 million, exceeding their goal by $100,000.
This year’s walks will be held April 9 at High Point Central High School, and this fall at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, Elon University in Elon, and Grimsley Senior High School in Greensboro.
The chapter also hosts an annual golf tournament, to be held May 6 at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons.
One of three chapters in the state, the Piedmont Triad chapter provides programs for people living with juvenile diabetes and their families, and works with elementary and middle schools to help students better understand the disease.
Last year, the chapter visited eight schools, gave lessons about healthy lifestyles, and led walks that raised awareness about the disease and raised money for research.
More schools are requesting similar programs, which help students “take personal responsibility for a healthy lifestyle,” Conrad says.