Jonah King has Type I Diabetes.
The 3-year old and his mother Andrea King, a screenwriter, live in Los Angeles.
“I knew Jonah had Type I Diabetes,” said Susan Frosch, artist and owner of Durham’s Basement gallery, and King’s longtime friend. “But then in November I got this email from Andrea, and I was horrified.”
King had formed a team to participate in a local Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk to raise money. In her letter, which asked friends and family to walk or sponsor the duo, King had shared details about a recent, somewhat typical night in Jonah’s life.
“Having a Type 1 Diabetic child is like strapping yourself, and your child (and your preschool teachers and nanny) into a roller coaster car…every single day,” she wrote. “Sometimes he’s up/high, and just as quickly he can be down/low, or it’s like being a tight-rope walker on the high wire, trying to balance that long pole and not fall … because there is no net.”
King vividly portrayed working to get Jonah’s blood sugar levels stable, which meant pricking his finger several times to test his blood sugar, as well as keeping him eating and taking insulin.
“It is unbelievable,” Frosch said. “He doesn’t get to sleep through the night – doesn’t get to have life like any other child.”
Frosch sent a donation immediately.
“Then I asked myself what else I could do,” she said. “I saw that Third Friday was coming, and I decided I could pull something together and do something to make a difference.”
She choked up talking about the immense community response she has received.
From 6-10 p.m. this Friday at Basement gallery, 305 E. Chapel Hill St., a benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation will be held featuring food, a raffle, as well as live music by performers including father and son blues and bluegrass guitarists, Steve and Justin Creed. The event features a silent auction, which includes a private brewery tour for 20 people donated by Durham’s Triangle Brewery.
Frosch will hold a stained glass demonstration and Pam Adams is doing a pottery demonstration. Everyone is invited to participate in a community art project by smashing unwanted pottery against a wall and then using the shards to create a mosaic.
As Frosch was thinking about what art should be exhibited for the event, she realized it should be about Jonah’s story.
“Andrea is a fantastic photographer and has been one ever since we met at summer camp when we were teenagers. I am surprised she has never had any exhibitions,” Frosch said.
This event will change that fact.
On exhibit will be 15 photographs that King has taken either of Jonah, who has more charisma than Muhammad Ali, or of the new things, like insulin, that became a part of their life after he was diagnosed a year ago.
Viewers will instantly see this in King’s favorite photograph of Jonah, which shows the toddler lying in a beautiful array of tall, California grass. Closer inspection shows his insulin pump at his side.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fact sheet concisely explains that, “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.” There is no cure.
Those living with Type I diabetes and others, like Frosch, who are inspired by them, are the backbone of the Triangle/Eastern N.C. Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“We are volunteer driven,” said Kathy Peterson, executive director. “We have a very small paid staff and a huge volunteer base. We were just named by Forbes magazine as an all-star organization based on efficiency.” Forbes released its annual rank list of 100 nonprofits and charities in November.
The article also applauds the organization for having over 80 percent of its donations go directly to funding research. Founded in 1970 to focus on Type I Diabetes research, the foundation gave $116 million for research in 2011. Other goals of the group include improving treatments and lives for Type I diabetes patients. “We use volunteers in all of our event activities like our sugar-free Easter egg hunt, and we also have volunteer mentors,” Peterson said
King has never felt comfortable asking anyone for money so sending the email that she did this past November gave her pause.
“But I realized that my personal discomfort has to take a backseat to finding a cure for my child,” she said. “This disease is harder than anyone can imagine. I don’t even want to think about the complications. We have to find a cure. I want my child to have a life where he is not on this roller coaster of diabetes. I say that the only thing predictable about this disease is that it is unpredictable.”
For details about all aspects of the fundraiser, go to susanfrosch.com
or call 919-289-9893. The exhibit runs through Jan. 14. The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and by appointment.
“This is an incredibly cool thing that Susie is doing,” King said. “She has never even met Jonah. It is a kind, amazing thing for an old friend to do.”