All families affected by type 1 diabetes have a date. The date that turned their life upside down and opened the door to a world they never knew existed before. For most, this day is remembered by the fear, pain, and uncertainty of a loved one laying in a large hospital. But in the darkest moments, as you learn to prick fingers, give insulin shots, and count carbs, a humble steady hand arrives that lifts the darkness: a doctor, not just any doctor, but an amazing endocrinologist. They enter your life and offer knowledge, support, and slowly lift the fear of the unknown. Most of all they give us HOPE that our babies will live big bright full lives because they persevere!
At this year’s JDRF One Walk at Carowinds on April 21st, we are thrilled to be honoring pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Mark Parker as he retires after 40 years of service to our type 1 diabetes community. What sets Dr. Parker apart is the detailed level of care he provides to each of his patients. He not only makes a scary diagnosis easier, but he inspires each of his patients to live beyond their disease and to dream big.
Brittany Hunter was a patient of Dr. Parker and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 5. This year, she recognized herself in a JDRF Facebook post when she was 7 or 8 years old at the Walk and pie-ing Dr. Parker in the face. She claims, “There is no greater joy for a diabetic kid than getting to throw a pie at your endocrinologist.” Brittany is now grown with four children of her own and in graduate school to become a nurse practitioner. She attributes Dr. Parker’s guidance, patience, care and support to her successful diabetes management and finding her passion, nursing.
Dr. Jakub Mieszczak was also patient of Dr. Parker. He was diagnosed with T1D at age 14. During one of his appointments Jakub shared his dream of attending medical school and becoming an endocrinologist, so he could help children living with T1D too. With a handshake, Dr. Parker told him that if he graduated, he would be honored to have Jakub join his practice. In 2009, Dr. Parker kept his promise and brought newly graduated Jakub on staff. Now, Dr. Mieszcazk is caring for T1Ds and inspiring children to reach for their dreams!
Dr. Mark Parker also had a vision and a desire to reach out to the kids living with type I diabetes. In 1994, he set out to provide a fun, safe and educational environment for these children in a day-camp setting. From only a handful of kids then to today, Camp KUDOS hosts 110 kids ages 4 years old through the 8th grade.
Staffed with nurses, doctors, dietitians and counselors, all donating their time, Camp KUDOS provides an environment where these kids with type 1 diabetes don’t feel “different”. Campers keep track of their food, check blood sugars, and take insulin. Most importantly, our campers see that they are not alone in these responsibilities and encourage each other.
Having given so much to the T1D community, and being a life-long supporter, cheerleader, and advocate for JDRF, we hope you’ll join us in thanking him for his service, guidance and good humor all these many years as we honor him. We want to make it an extra special day!
A diagnosis of any illness is difficult but there is always a doctor that enters the room and gives the world order again, a plan and HOPE that tomorrow will be better because together we can treat it!
Here’s how you can get involved in the fun:
- Form a Family Walk Team or re-generate a team from year’s past. (Visit www.walk.jdrf.org to register).
- If you don’t want to form your own One Walk team, join the “Parker’s Peeps,” help raise money as part of Dr. Parker’s team, and join Dr. Parker at the JDRF One Walk on April 21. (Visit http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/parkerspeeps and click “Join” to sign up and get started).
- Donate to Dr. Parker’s Walk team online (visit http://www2.jdrf.org/goto/parkerspeeps and click “Donate”) or by mailing a check payable to JDRF (with “Parker’s Peeps” in the memo line), addressed to: JDRF, 205 Regency Executive Park Drive, Suite 102, Charlotte, NC 28217.
As an added incentive, for registered family teams that raise $2,500 or more, Dr. Parker has generously agreed to allow a representative from each team participate in a huge, hilarious, group event at the end of Walk – where everyone will “Silly String” Dr. Parker in an incredible mass of color!