Jeff and Natalie Kolok

Jeff KolokName: Jeff and Natalie Kolok
Hometown: Vermont
Diabetes Type: Parents of daughter with type 1 diabetes
Current Life's Work: Founders of SLAMDiabetes

As told to Nicole Purcell, dLife Blogabetes blogger.

When Jeff and Natalie Kolok's four-year-old daughter Johanna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April 2005, they did what many parents of the newly diagnosed do — they turned to the worldwide web for information and resources that might help them to better care for their child. While several sites were helpful, the Koloks didn't find one that was exclusively for parents of kids with type 1 diabetes. Seeking to provide a warm, engaging online space targeting parents, Jeff and Natalie started www.parentingdiabetickids.com. The site provides parents of children with type 1 diabetes a place to find news and resources and share their worries, solutions, obstacles, and victories.

Even more impressive, over the past two years, Jeff and Natalie have turned their JDRF walk team, SLAMDiabetes, into a powerful awareness driver and fundraising force. Having attended a wiffle ball tournament in their home state of Vermont in 2010, they recognized that the event was both a lot fun for all involved and a great way to raise money for a worthy cause. Consulting with the event organizer and getting straight to work, they held their first SLAMDiabetes Wiffle© Ball Tournament that same year. In the two years since, they've worked with a New York company to create pop-up wiffle ball fields that can be set up for tournaments anywhere in the country. They held four in New England in 2012 and so far have ten set for 2013. They are scouting more sites for 2014.

The tournaments, complete with stadium music, live play-by-play announcing, great food, full color programs, a Home Run Derby, and media partners like ESPN Radio, averaged 300-500 attendees in 2012. The events raised $15,000-$36,000 through team fundraising and corporate sponsorships. Attendance and numbers of teams are expected to increase significantly this year. The tournaments benefit organizations like the Barton Center for Diabetes Education in North Oxford, Massachusetts, and type 1 camps and programs at the American Diabetes Association. Jeff explains why so many people are attracted to the tournaments, and how organizations benefit beyond the funds raised, saying, "Wiffle ball is fun. Playing in replica stadiums, in real games, with playoffs and special events like the Home Run Derby...it's an absolute blast for people of all ages!" Fundraising is integrated into tie-breakers and wild card lotteries, and many players and spectators come because of the game, not because of a connection to the disease. "The tournaments attract new donors who might not otherwise have a connection to type 1 diabetes." Athletes and celebrities have joined up with SLAMDiabetes, including NBA great Ray Allen of the Miami Heat, Major League Baseball players Brandon Morrow and Sam Fuld, and actor Luis Guzman.

Jeff and Natalie are heroes at home too. In 2007, they called the State of Vermont to offer assistance to families of children with type 1 diabetes. The state worker with whom Jeff spoke proclaimed a miracle, telling him about a little boy who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while in state custody. In June of that year, the Koloks brought six-year-old Nicholas into their family. His adoption was finalized in September 2008, joining Johanna and their older sister Naomi. The Koloks are truly dedicated to doing everything they can to help people with type 1 diabetes.

*NOTE: These are everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. These personal accounts are not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

We are always looking for interesting/inspiring diabetes stories. To find out our current call for submissions or to submit your own inspirational story for consideration, check out Real People, Real Stories.

Reviewed by dLife Staff, 05/13.

Last Modified Date: May 18, 2015

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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