Labor Day & Diabetes Connection???—YOU BET!

Happy Labor Day. Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894 (under President Grover Cleveland); thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day. It was created by the urging of Unions here in the U.S. and that is of particular interest to me. First I’m a proud member of the AFL-CIO belonging to two Unions from my acting days (SAG-AFTRA, Actors Equity Association) and know firsthand the importance of Unions (shout out to NY SAG-AFTRA Board Member and my friend, Liz Zazzi).

Second, and if you have any connections with diabetes this will be of particular interest to you: the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) AFL-CIO is made up of more than 365 state and local councils and was founded over 100 years ago and for over 25 years the men and women members of the BCTD have supported the DRI.

In 1984, a small of group of parents whose children were suffering from Diabetes dreamed of building a state-of-the-art research facility. It was their vision to create the largest research-focused center in the world. It would be a center with one sole purpose: to find a cure for diabetes. When the leaders of the BCTD heard about these incredible parents, they made it their mission to make this dream a reality. They called on union members all over the country to unite behind the cause. The efforts began with the Dollars Against Diabetes Campaign, commonly known as D.A.D.’s Day. Each Father’s Day Weekend, community members gathered on street corners in cities across America. They held Dad’s Day buckets and asked passing motorists to contribute anything they could.

By 1994, the BCTD dream had become reality when the funds necessary to build the research were raised. Now it was time to build. Union men and women from around the United States contributed their time and labor, physically constructing the Diabetes Research Institute, part of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami. When given the opportunity to name this Institute anything they wanted, the union brothers and sisters passed up the opportunity for recognition. All they asked was that a plaque be placed outside of the building, reading, “Built by the hands of the American people”.

Today, in 2012, with the initiatives of the BCTD and under the leadership of President Sean McGarvey, the dedication to the DRI continues with over 70 events around the country and the incredibly successful Labor of Love Golf Tournament held annually. Over 45 million dollars has been raised by the BCTD and they are showing no signs of slowing down in their efforts.

As parents and people with diabetes we need, no-we must, be incredibly grateful to this group of people who not only built the premier institute of diabetes research in the world but also continue to raise money supporting the research for a cure to this day.

Labor Day may be a holiday but it also needs to serve as a reminder to all those with an interest in or about diabetes where the DRI began with the first brick. So from our collective hearts we thank you my brother and sister union members of the BCTD and also your supporters; enjoy the day.

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