The 2012 Lisa Awards
Honoring the power of one person.
By Tom Karlya
June 2012 — It's hard to believe another year has gone by. That means it's time once again for my Lisa Awards. Each May/June, in honor of my friend Lisa Carlinsky, I bestow my Lisa Awards — kudos to people who understand the power of one person. People who, in their own way, are changing the world, just like Lisa did.
My friend Lisa passed away in 2009, at the young age of 36. She battled cancer longer than any doctor thought she would. 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.
To remind people again of Lisa's story:
Once Lisa was diagnosed with cancer, Lisa and Mark (her husband, who is as close to me as any brother) shared their writings with a hundred or so friends and family members, all of whom were inspired with each word. People learned, people shared, and people 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, and soon 3,500 people were following Lisa's story at every turn, both the good and the bad. Both Lisa and Mark were so inspiring in the face of incredible tragedy that they inspired others to do the same. And then something else happened.
A TV station found out about Lisa and they ran the story of her incredible efforts to teach others on the evening news. Now, millions heard her story and were inspired by the magic she possessed — the determination to live life and taste every last drop. Sadly, Lisa's valiant battle was lost, but not before millions heard about it. 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 am 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." 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.
My first award this year goes to Tonya Homme. When Tonya decided to do something to make a difference in the world of diabetes, she thought of the color blue. Many like the color blue as the awareness color for diabetes, due mostly to the blue circle the International Diabetes Federation uses for World Diabetes Day. Tonya's idea was to find a nail polish manufacturer and to find that gorgeous blue color for people to wear. When she couldn't find exactly what she was looking for, she went into business herself and opened Tips4Type1. She also decided that the most important thing was to find a cure, so the proceeds go to just that — a cure for diabetes. Quicker than she can make the nail polish, people are buying it. So if you want beautiful blue nails...you know where to go!
My second Lisa Award goes to Andy Viola. As Co-Chairman of the Suffolk Lions Diabetes Education Foundation, this one-man human dynamo methodically and consistently changes the diabetes world in Suffolk County Long Island. Under his guidance and leadership, this small band of incredible volunteers has given over $100,000 to local hospitals for better treatment for people with diabetes; funded a diabetes camp for kids each year; worked to increase diabetes education to our veterans; helped educate over 15,000 elementary school children about diabetes; and funded diabetes research at the Diabetes Research Institute. He will be the first to tell you that it is the work of others, but it is Andy who is the "power of one" that keeps this organization working as smoothly and efficiently as it does. The Lions mantra is, "We Serve." Andy lives it.
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