Arnie and Nilene Chase:
A Family Takes Control of Diabetes Head On
First published June 2011
When Arnie and Nilene Chase’s son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, they knew they had no time to waste wondering why. “We deal with issues head on,” says Nilene, whose close-knit family is from Washington Township, New Jersey. “And diabetes was possibly one of the biggest issues we had ever faced.”
That was 13 years ago. The Chases discovered quickly that the American Diabetes Association could help give their son the most control over his disease through the organization’s education, events and nationally-renowned programs for children. With their matching no-nonsense attitudes, his parents are Ben’s biggest advocates. “Just after Ben’s diagnosis, we told him that ‘things happen,’ but this is something we can deal with,” says his father, Arnie. “There were children on other floors of the hospital who had illnesses that couldn’t be managed, and diabetes is fortunately a disease that you can live with.”
Within months of his diagnosis, Ben’s family joined a local Association Walk team, donating generously to the cause to treat, prevent and cure diabetes, and reaching out to family, friends and colleagues to donate and participate. “The leaders of the local office were tremendously caring and involved,” remembers Arnie. A few years later, Ben and his mother became the Youth Chair and Chair of the Walk. “It was that initial burst of support that inspired us to continue working with the Association,” recalls Nilene.
The Chases appreciate that the Association is focused on more than just prevention and finding a cure for the disease. The organization’s unique emphasis on treatment and living with diabetes has made the Association what they call “user-friendly” for people like Ben, who already have diabetes and must live their lives with it every day. Nilene considers that, “Since we are not sure when a cure is going to happen, we have always known that Ben had to learn how to live his life so that diabetes was in the background and not running his life.” His mother remembers what it was like, shortly after his diagnosis, to let Ben leave on his bike one morning for the first time. “It scared me to death, but I wanted to give him his freedom. He needed to know he could still do the things he wanted while managing his own diabetes.”
In addition to learning from his parents, Ben, who is now 23, also thrived at Diabetes Camp, both as a camper and a counselor, learning additional skills in managing his blood sugar and using a pump. As a counselor, he was both a teacher and a role model for the young campers. “When Ben was diagnosed, we instantly made a commitment that he would be given all the tools he needed to live a full life with diabetes,” says Nilene.
Today, now that Ben is an adult and free of complications, the Chases are reevaluating their philanthropic priorities. Nilene looks forward to the possibility when future family members will not be affected by diabetes. She feels very acutely that the family should do everything in their power to prevent and cure diabetes in the next generation. Simultaneously, Arnie believes that additional treatment strategies are likely to come prior to a cure.
The Chases know that the best way to reach their long-term diabetes goals are through research. “The next stage of diabetes treatment is going to come soon, but it will only be accomplished through extensive study,” says Arnie. There is work to be done, clinical trials to start and research to be conducted, but it must be funded first,” says Arnie. The importance of supporting grants has not been lost on the Chases. The Chases made their initial pledge to the Association’s Research Foundation in 2008 and increased their gift significantly last year. “It is very important to us that we are now funding research to help our child, our possible grandchildren and all other children facing diabetes now and in the future,” says Nilene.
As members of the Pinnacle Society—the giving society honoring groups of individuals who have pledged a large donation to the Association—the Chases encourage fellow families to support the Research Foundation as well. “For us, the reason parents should donate to diabetes research is to empower them so that they feel they are doing something positive for their child,” says Nilene. “It just so happens that those gifts actually do in fact go to something worthwhile for all children.” Ben still has his occasional bad days with diabetes, but has been otherwise successful in managing his illness, having never been hospitalized since the Saturday he was diagnosed. Now living in London, Ben has all the tools he needs to realize his “freedom,” as the Chases call it.
Although it is surely bittersweet, Arnie and Nilene Chase are now, more than ever, able to focus their attention on supporting the research that will treat diabetes and one day prevent and cure it for a future generation. By way of the Association’s Research Foundation, their generosity will fund the next group of researchers likely to successfully treat, prevent and one day cure diabetes for future generations.