I cannot believe that eight years have gone by already since this word lost such a wonderful and inspirational woman. Each year around June (her birthday), in honor of my friend Lisa Carlinsky, I bestow my Lisa Awards — kudos to people who understand the power of one person. It is given to people who, in their own way, change the world just like Lisa did. This is a VERY BIG deal to me because these award are not given lightly. They are given in honor of a woman who was not satisfied to just feel sorry for herself, she changed many lives and I miss her to this day.
My friend Lisa passed away in 2009, at the young age of 36. She battled cancer longer than any doctor thought she would or even could. Through her life, I learned a hugely powerful phrase that will live inside me forever, along with Lisa’s memory: The power of one person.
Here is a quick summary of Lisa’s story, before we get to the awards.
She was diagnosed with cancer. Lisa and Mark (her husband, who is as close to me as any brother) shared their writings of her journey with a hundred or so friends and family members, all of whom were inspired by each word. People learned, shared, and were in awe of their strength and dedication.
And then something happened.
People who were not part of the inner circle started reading the blog posts, and those people became inspired. The hundred readers became five hundred. In no time, the number of readers rose to 1,000, then 1,500. Soon 3,500 people were following Lisa’s story at every turn, both the good and the bad. Lisa and Mark were so brave in the face of incredible hardship and they inspired others to do the same with grace and dignity, sprinkled with humor.
And then something else happened.
A TV station found out about Lisa and they ran the story on the evening news of her incredible efforts to teach others. Millions heard her story and were inspired by the magic she possessed — the determination to live life and taste every last drop was shared with millions. So many others facing trials hit them ‘head on’, inspired by this young couple.
Eventually what Lisa and Mark shared so openly, became a reality and she succumbed to the physical-ness of what cancer can do. Her spirit, though, was never defeated. The war would go on with Lisa and Mark’s teaching. Her “power of one” changes lives to this day.
This column, surrounding Lisa’s birthday month, pays tribute to those who understand Lisa’s philosophy of the power of one person. Because I’m more versed with the happenings inside the diabetes community, my Lisa Awards are given to those people who live Lisa’s determination to make a difference with the “power of one” in the diabetes community. These people don’t do it — whatever it is — for only themselves, they do it because they think it will make a difference in the lives of those with diabetes. Lisa’s words live in these special people — they know and understand the power of one.
So my 2017 Lisa Awards go to:
Sarah Lucas, one of the founders of Beyond Type 1. Sarah is the driving force behind one of the world’s newest, largest, and absolute fastest growing organizations on the planet. While most are having their third or fourth meetings discussing strategies on how to organize something, Sarah is already finished with one event and on to a second. Her ‘no-nonsense’ approach is refreshing and encouraging. Sarah is not only a genius at implementation, she works any project down to the finest detail……..and she does it faster than anyone else. Her Team Bike Beyond, Missing the Diagnosis of T1D, and incredible Beyond Type 1 community are just a few of her examples of undertakings of monstrous proportions. And yet, when you speak to Sarah and her warm eyes reflect the love and dedication she has to curing her daughter, Mary, and she shares how important each project is to be successful, you are won over instantly that this incredible mom has a heart that is as expressive as her eyes, and you want to go along for the ride……..and you do. Typical Sarah style is to give the credit elsewhere, but that Power of One is truly evident in all that she does………and the world is surely better for it.
Elizabeth Forrest. Elizabeth is a power of one like few I have ever had the honor to know. In the year 2000 at a very, very, young age Elizabeth Founded Dancing for Diabetes. The annual event raises money for many different diabetes initiatives from diabetes education to funding a cure for diabetes. Next year she needs to move her Orlando Dancing for Diabetes event to a venue that will hold at least a thousand people because of the growth of this incredible night of dance. Clearly Elizabeth is as comfortable in front of a camera as a large group of people sharing what she can to improve this diabetes world for others. And yet, when you see this powerhouse of a woman on one knee talking to a young dancer is when you see Elizabeth at her best. It is the encouragement aura around her sharing that although that child has T1D, they are limited by nothing. She not only talks the talk, she walks the walk and as you listen to her you fully understand that this POWER of ONE will never accept the phrase ‘won’t work’ ever, anywhere.
Christel Marchand Aprigliano. Have you ever been active in something that perhaps makes you attend many meetings throughout the year in different places and each time you attend you see someone and you say to yourself, “I need to know more about THAT person because I see them everywhere”? That is Christel. Not a diabetes conference goes by that she is not somewhere moving the ‘diabetes agenda’ forward for all those, like her, living with it. Diagnosed at the age of twelve, Christel’s very life makes it clear that diabetes is merely something she has and should not be what defines her. She founded the ‘UnConference‘ which (from the website) allows participants to create and moderate the agenda, allowing for a wide variety of topics and viewpoints that might never be covered in a traditional conference. Using various sharing methods that focus on drawing out responses from all attendees, those in the room learn from each other in a peer-to-peer environment. She undertakes many initiatives and causes that would tire most out in just a week and to be honest, I look forward to those conferences where I see her because there is ALWAYS something happening in Christel’s life that is both exciting and new…..Power of One Indeed.
Dustin and Jilly McGowan. Dustin pitches for the Miami Marlins and does so with T1D. Jilly and Dustin also have a daughter with T1D and both were extremely instrumental in creating and implementing one of the newest and coolest support groups in the country. During many games throughout the season, kids will meet personally with Dustin and be inspired by his ability to pitch in the big leagues and hear his stories about baseball and managing diabetes. After they are on the field for batting practice and meeting players, the kids attend a diabetes support group meeting with their parents right in the stadium where they hear from professionals about living their lives to the fullest. After the support group meeting while wearing their new Dustins T1D All-Stars tee shirts they stay for the game and cheer on their hometown Miami Marlins. Dustin and Jilly have an enormous amount on their plates as it is, to stop and do this to directly impact so many kids is not only admirable…….it’s inspiring.
I think Lisa would be very proud and happy with this year’s recipients. The Power of One, that was Lisa; and that is certainly this year’s recipients.
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