Highland Park Nonprofit Raises Over $1 Million for Diabetes Research

Susie Mandell and a group of family and close friends started Friends United for Juvenile Diabetes Research from her kitchen table 14 years ago. Since then, they've raised almost $1.5 million towards finding a cure.

Nearly 15 years ago, a Highland Park mother still adjusting to her son's Type 1 diabetes diagnosis sat in her kitchen with a group of close friends family members and decided to start Friends United for Juvenile Diabetes Research.

Now, Susan Mandell sounds thrilled when she says that the group has raised about $1.5 million for diabetes research.

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"We spend as little as possible on overheard," Mandell said about the group, which she runs with three other co-chairs. "We are not a national organization."

The organization will host its "The Voice for the Cure" fundraiser this Saturday, Nov. 3 at Resolution Digital Studios, a 32,000 square foot multimedia studio at 2226 West Walnut Street in Chicago. The event will include a performance by artist Michael Israel and music by the Highland Park native Danny Chaimson and the Gold Coast All Stars.

"We try to make it different than your typical dinner/dance event," Mandell said of the upcoming evening.

Mandell is excited for the event, a type of fundraising Friends United does't often do. Typically, the organization raises money with mahjong tournaments, candy buy-backs and mailers.

"The economy changes, and it gets harder to collect money," Mandell said. "You have to get more clever on how you do it."

The money collected gets handed over to researchers the organization believes is doing unique research working towards a cure for diabetes. The group is currently helping to fund research by Dr. Denise Faustman at Harvard and Dr. Louis Philipson at the Kovler Diabetes Center in Chicago.

"We have a direct relationship with our doctors and resources," Mandell said. "They know us by name."

Though Mandell points out technology has improved the ease in which diabetics can take care of themselves, she says nothing has stopped diabetes from being "a 24/7 situation." Between keeping track of your carbohydrate count, your blood pressure and your sugar intake, your constantly answering to your body's needs.

"It's like you're running your body that's like a car thats on manual transmission instead of auto transmission," Mandell said. "You're never free."

Mandell believes a cure exists for diabetes, and hopes that the money raised at Saturday's event will go towards finding it.

"It's something that needs to be cured," she said. "I really think it can be."

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