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How did 40 people come together to listen to some great jazz, let their hair down, and raise $1,260 all for a great cause?

It all started with a few friendly email requests from Diabetes Canada to help celebrate 100 Years of Insulin and join their fundraising campaign—Lace Up to End Diabetes, presented by GMS.

I had already run in three races for our local hospital’s cardiac care unit and felt I couldn’t do more fundraising this year—at least I couldn’t go back to the same well of friends and family. But I couldn’t resist the call: Diabetes Canada is one of my favourite charities. I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 46 years and have benefitted in so many ways from their work.

My diabetes story

My story started in November 1975. I was diagnosed just after my 10th birthday. Back then, the regimen was one shot of slow-acting insulin once a day, urine testing and a regulated diet. There was no home glucose monitoring. Heck, the Internet didn’t come until nearly a few decades later. So, the Canadian Diabetes Association (now Diabetes Canada) was the only way to get information on research, improvements to self-management, and tricks to living a healthy lifestyle without the tools of today. The organization was also the place to connect with and support others living with diabetes and to raise greater awareness about the disease among Canadians. As a volunteer, I spoke at public gatherings and ran in fundraising events when I lived in Ontario, and sat on boards and committees when I lived on the east coast.  

Type 1 diabetes is a 24/7 autoimmune disease constantly requiring management and calculating impacts on each piece of the whole, whether it be exercise, food, blood testing, pump infusion set changes, illnesses like the flu or a cold, late meetings at work, and so much more.

For 44 years, I experienced no major diabetes-related complications, then in November 2019, I had a heart attack. It was a shock, but thankfully, I have recovered. And, I’d say that despite the challenges of diabetes, I’ve lived a fairly normal life. I had a successful career, travelling for work (and pleasure), and have enjoyed sports, reading, taking courses, and volunteering.

As I contemplated Diabetes Canada’s request for support, I realized that my life experience covered about half of the insulin story—this life-saving discovery that had changed my life. But how to fundraise without asking for sponsorship? The opportunity presented itself in early July when B.C. moved into phase 3 of its COVID-19 recovery plan. This meant that people could socialize and get out, and gather in a small way after living for 15 months without.

Do what you love

I love music of almost every genre. The little hamlet of Shirley, B.C., where my husband, Andy, and I relocated in 2019, has a community centre. Pre-COVID-19 we had our fair share of live music there under the umbrella of Shirley Loves Music. So, I started noodling the idea of organizing a small concert in this post-COVID-19 world. People were ready to get out. People were hungry for music. Our hall hadn’t been rented in nearly a year. Musicians were eager for work. After a conversation with our director, Shannon, our 100 Years of Jazz, Celebrating 100 Years of Insulin concert was born.

I only expected to raise a few hundred dollars, but our community of less than 500 households offered tremendous support. Shannon reached out to her art friends for something small to use as door prizes. I reached out to businesses that we frequented and that were successful during the heavy months of COVID-19 restrictions, such as our local wood-oven pizza joint. Two friends offered help, and thus my little intimate concert grew into a benefit concert, plus big fundraiser with fabulous prizes. My friend, Alison, helped with the set-up and decorations. Andy took care of the refreshments-for-purchase stand. I managed the raffle and silent auction. Another friend, Robin, took tickets at the door and welcomed the guests. I made jazz treat bags, each with a separate jazz artist on the front and some trivia. Inside each bag was either a diabetes quiz, diabetes crossword or jazz word search I’d created specifically for the night—tying jazz and diabetes into the mix.

Exceeding expectations

One rule I have about fundraising in this type of venue is that everyone has to have fun—and feel like they got their money’s worth and contributed to a great cause. They are paying for an experience. Early in the planning stages, I developed my favourite part of the night—purchase your once-in-a-lifetime-chance to play along with Kent & Rea with a rhythm instrument of your choice. That was a huge success. They performed Peggy Lee’s “Fever,” which has a great rhythm for beginners to quickly feel the song’s pulse. Later, we were invited back on stage for “I’ve got Rhythm,” which has been played by many jazz artists over the years, so most of the new performers (the seven brave souls who took on the cause) knew it. Kent & Rea, who also donated prizes, played a variety of tunes from Ella Fitzgerald to Billy Holiday to Norah Jones, and at the end of evening, gave the audience a chance to sing along.

Despite the fact that we capped the hall at half capacity, put out extra chairs so people could spread out, and had lots of hand sanitizer on hand, it felt as though for at least one evening, we were back enjoying some social moments and live music like we did before the pandemic began. We went home a bit exhausted but oh, what a wonderful night.

Did you know?

It has been 100 years since discovery of insulin—the most notable Canadian medical breakthrough and a miraculous change in life expectancy for millions of people around the world. However, insulin is not a cure. It’s the starting line, not the finish line for diabetes. We can’t wait another 100 years to End Diabetes. You can still get involved and support Lace Up to End Diabetes, presented by GMS Health and Travel Insurance. #LetsEndDiabetes now.

Author: Leslie Ann Bent

Category Tags: Community Spotlight, Impact Stories;

Region: National

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