My Life and Times with the Nevada Diabetes Association

Not long after I met Ashton in 1980 he came home one day and said “do you know there is nothing in this town to help people who have diabetes?  Don’t you think we should do something about that”? And so we did.  We started the Diabetic Educational Center and I spent the last 33 1/2 years working to create greater awareness and provide services for children, adults and families affected by this chronic health condition.

We brought the very first diabetes education program to Nevada.  We provided camperships for children to attend special camp programs and we started an emergency medical program to help people with diabetes get at least a month supply of their insulin, test strips and other diabetes supplies.  We ran the organization for 20 years from the home office of Interface Computer Associates. Basically the whole operation consisted of me and my computer and Ashton’s technical expertise backed up by a great Board of Directors that in the formative years included Drs. Ernest Mazzaferri, James Atcheson, Robert Rosenquist and Robert Fredericks .

Thanks to our son Kevin the D.E.C. had a web presence when the internet was still a baby and was the only organization in Nevada to be included in the 1996 Internet World Exposition

We had many wonderful friends who help us get this organization up and running. Vera and Sydney Stern and their daughter Susan were instrumental in launching the D.E.C..  My dear friend Martha Gould served on the Board of Directors in various positions for many years and remains to this day a strong supporter. The late great Paul O. Wiig, M.D. who at the time was Chairman of the Board of the Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation saw to it that we got the seed money to develop the Diabetes Education Program.

I spent a good deal of time during the Nevada Legislative sessions doing advocacy and building coalitions to change laws governing healthcare and we were successful in getting HMO’s and PPO’s to cover people with diabetes and assure that the Medicaid formulas exempted diabetes drugs.  It didn’t hurt that we had a good friend in the Assembly, Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman as well as two powerhouse legislators Assemblyman and Speaker of the House Joe Dini and Senator Bill Raggio.

BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT — More than 100 people came to honor former Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman's legacy at WashoeDEMS headquarters on January 18, including (standing from left) longtime activist and celebration co-chair Mylan Hawkins, former State Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, top gun attorney Margo Piscevich, and former Washoe County Assessor and Truckee Meadows Democratic Alliance Chairman Bob McGowan, D. Seated (l to r) artist Renate Neumann, top gun attorney Peter Chase Neumann and former Nevada Lt. Governor Sue Wagner, R.

BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT — More than 100 people came to honor former Assemblywoman Vivian Freeman’s legacy at WashoeDEMS headquarters on January 18, including (standing from left) longtime activist and celebration co-chair Mylan Hawkins, former State Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, top gun attorney Margo Piscevich, and former Washoe County Assessor and Truckee Meadows Democratic Alliance Chairman Bob McGowan, D. Seated (l to r) artist Renate Neumann, top gun attorney Peter Chase Neumann and former Nevada Lt. Governor Sue Wagner, R.

In 1997 when the Nevada Diabetes Council was being formed Salli Vannucci, the Program Director called me regarding a mutual acquaintance, Dr. Claude Lardinois who at one time served on the Board of the Diabetic Educational Center.  Claude founded a nonprofit, the Nevada Children’s Diabetes Association, that year because the Nevada Chapter of the American Diabetes Association had abandon Camp NVADA a one week program held up at Lake Tahoe for children with diabetes.  Salli told me Claude was having a problem getting the organization up and running and asked me if I could help.  I called Claude, we set up an appointment and the Nevada Diabetes Association for Children and Adults was born.  What I did was merge the Diabetic Educational Center with Claude’s newly formed organization, expand the Board of Directors and in 2000 move out of Interface Computer Associates  office’s and into office’s for the NDA at 1001 Terminal Way in Reno. We were on our way to the big time.

NDA LogoWe were fortunate to have as a member of our Board Terry Lee Wells  who along with many others help put together our first major fund raising event we called the GEM Awards. Jessica Longley, who was one of our Camp Counselors at the time and who now is an attorney and serves on the Board, suggested we try and get the 1999 Miss America Nicole Johnson as our guest speaker. The event honored the B.C. McCabe Foundation and Robert Fisher, Executive Director of the Nevada Broadcasters Association. As luck would have it our event took place after the new Miss America was crowned so we were able to get Miss Johnson as our star for half price. Still in all everyone held their breath in hopes we would break even. We did better then that and we never had a losing event in all the years I was at the helm.

1999 GEM Awards with prince Ashton Hawkins, Miss America Nicole Johnson and Mylan Hawkins

1999 GEM Awards with Prince Ashton Hawkins, Miss America Nicole Johnson and Mylan Hawkins

This is what we did and what we do.

In 1998, the NDA supported one camp program for children with diabetes, ages 8 to 12, at Lake Tahoe. We now have 2 week long resident camps, a week-end family camp, a week-end teen camp,  a week long day camp, a one day camp for children and families, 2 family support programs, a adult support program and free community education programs.  The programs help children and adults learn to successfully live with diabetes by providing education that helps them to become self sufficient in managing their condition and instills confidence.  These programs also help families learn important skills which in turn successfully helps their child.  It also relieves many concerns parents have about raising a child with a chronic and potentially life threatening condition.

Camp 2013

The NDA has the 2nd largest Camp Programs for Children with Diabetes in the U.S.

Camp Buck Buddies

Camp Buck Buddies

In 1999, the NDA held its first all day diabetes continuing education (CE) program. Continuing Medical Education programs were discontinued in 2008.

In 2000, the NDA received a grant from the State of Nevada Diabetes Control Program to develop a Nevada Diabetes Resource Directory and Guidelines for Children with Diabetes in School.  The Resource Directory and Guidelines are updated annually to keep information and resources current.  This was also the year that we established Camp Vegas our 2nd resident Camp Program.

The NDA is also a part of the CDC’s Diabetes Today Training Program that utilizes this resource to develop community based programs for the prevention and detection of diabetes. The “Defeat Diabetes Project” is an example of the type of program that creates partnerships to meet the goal of reducing the burden of diabetes in our communities and state. “Defeat Diabetes” partners included the NDA, HAWC Clinic, Nevada Hispanic Services, Reno Host Lions Club, Saint Mary’s and the Washoe District Health Department.  The project targets the Hispanic Community as well as other high risk and at risk populations providing information, educational handouts and free diabetes screenings. The protocol for this program has been made available to and duplicated by other organization throughout the state.

In 2001, the NDA became a licensed site for the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-management Program.  This training provided the NDA with the ability to facilitate the program in Nevada and train leaders for the program.  Two day Camp Programs were also established in 2001. One in Reno and one in Las Vegas, Grants from the State of Nevada Diabetes Control Program to the NDA, brought the “Lighten-Up” program from the Medical School of South Carolina to meet the needs of the African American community.  This program uses faith-based principles along with health messages to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stoke and help those who may have these conditions avoid complications.

In May of 2002, the NDA established a regional Board of Directors and office in Clark County, NV and took over support of the DCAF (Diabetes in Children and Families) Support Group.  The NDA supports an annual DCAF Health Fair, Summer Family Picnic and Holiday Party. During the same year, the organization received a grant from the State of Nevada Tobacco funds to facilitate the Chronic Disease Self Management Program statewide for a 2 year period.  Twenty-one teams were trained and licensed to offer the program at various sites throughout the state.

Since 2002, the NDA has grown its programs to include the “Small Changes Big Rewards” program, “Eye of the Eagle” program and “Surviving the Holidays” These programs are made available to businesses, organizations and individuals free of charge. They have enabled the NDA to establish numerous partnerships across the state and further reduce the incidence of diabetes and its complications in both adults and children.  The “Eye of the Eagle” program was the first program developed by a non-profit from Nevada to be selected for presentation at the 2006 CDC Diabetes Translation Conference.

In 2007, the NDA expanded staffing to include a Director for our Southern Nevada office and brought the management of our camp programs in house by hiring a Director of Camps. These additions to our staff enable the organization to closely manage and oversee the programs we offer.

In 2008 the NDA implemented a teen camp program sponsored in part by the Reno Rodeo Foundation and the Injection Connection Program for Teens in Southern Nevada.  The Savvy Patient Program was also started as a pilot program for adults dealing with diabetes and other chronic health conditions.

In 2010 plans were started to have a Teen Injection Connection in Reno, explore partnerships to address Diabetes Peripheral  Neuropathy and provide an ongoing  adult diabetes support and education program at a local Adult Residence Center.

In 2011 the Northern Nevada Injection Connection was started. A partnership with Pfizer Inc. created a program to address DPN.  In addition the NDA established under its 501(c)3 registered as a nonprofit in California as the California Diabetes Association.

The Pfizer Program, ABC’s of Diabetes grew in 2012 and 2013 and this year, 2014, will provide both a physician and patient component.

A enterprise may start with one persons idea but it really takes many people with the talents and commitment to see that the enterprise succeeds.  I have been blessed to have many excellent volunteers, staff, friends and community that have made the NDA success possible.

There is always more that needs to be done and more to do. One day with luck our services will no longer be need, because this cursed disease will be no more. In the meantime until there is a cure the NDA is here to help.

  1. This is a rich chronicle of a tremendous history. What you’re doing here is vital.

  2. Thank you so much.

  3. When the cells lack insulin they become starved and since there is no other source of energy apart from the fats, they get used
    up. When compared to diabetes rates in Caucasians, the risk of diabetes is 18 percent higher
    in Asian Americans. It is important that you do various physical activities daily so you will not gain much weight.

    • Thanks for your comment. Diabetes in all of its forms requires a carefully balance of diet, physical activity and medication (if needed in the case of Type 2).