February 2012

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work to inspire Someone You Should Know: Michelle Page-Alswager Turning personal grief into a public mission By Elishah Oesch Th e loss of a child is one of the most diffi cult things we have to go through in this life. No one knows that better than BRAVA's own Michelle Page-Alswager, who lost her son, Jesse, to complications of type 1 diabetes on Feb. 3, 2010. He was just 13 years old. Time may have passed, but for Page-Alswager, Jesse's death feels as close to her as yesterday. "We're coming up on the second anniversary of Jesse's death, and it's really not that much different than two years ago," she says, describing how she thinks about Jesse every day. "Grief is a kick in the butt," she adds. While that certainly is true, Page-Alswager doesn't let that keep her down. She's turned her grief into action. While she had spent many of the years since Jesse's diagnosis, at age 3, advocating and fundraising for a cure, these days her focus has shifted just a bit. Her message is more urgent: Children are still dying. In fact, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation now states that one in 20 diagnosed will die from low blood sugar. Page-Alswager's endeavors to raise awareness have included everything from creating Jessepalooza, an annual day of music, and participating in the 100-mile Ride to Cure Diabetes cycling fund- raiser, to writing a book, currently titled "More Lasagna Please." Beyond raising funds, Page-Alswager is also offering something else: support. With the help of social media and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation online diabetes support team, she is notifi ed whenever a family loses a child to diabetes, which, unfortunately, happens too often. Despite the pain she still goes through, Page- Alswager personally reaches out to those suffering a loss. "I message them on Facebook. I give them all of my information and say, 'it's completely up to you [if you want to talk],'" she says. To date, more than 25 family members who have lost a loved one to diabetes from all around the world have contacted her. Th e experi- ence, she says, has changed her entire outlook on life. "Life is pretty sobering," she says. "To think that other people haven't gone through a loss like you have is ridiculous." Lynette Allen of Evansville, Ind., lost her 11-year-old daugh- ter, Victoria, to complications of diabetes on Aug. 24, 2011. Th at's when she found Page-Alswager. "I went on the Internet and was searching for someone who had had an experience like what I did, and I found her," Allen says. "It's really helped me." Page-Alswager says that today, helping others is what her life is all about. "It's very rewarding to watch them get any help, because I've stood in their shoes. I know what day four [of grief] feels like. I know what two months feels like," she says. Page-Alswager will continue her efforts to fi nd a cure for diabe- tes so others do not have to experience what she's gone through. But until then, she's realistic about her own journey with grief. "I feel Jesse every day, and I know that other people feel him, too," she says. "I hope he's somewhere knowing how much of a difference he's making." ••• Elishah Oesch is co-anchor of WKOW27's Wake Up Wisconsin. Nonprofi t Profi le: Friends of JDRF, Inc. What it is: A nonprofi t group created to help third- party events raise funds for either the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or the Diabetes Research Institute. 36 BRAVA Magazine What they do: While nonprof- its host their own fundraisers, supporters often have ideas for events that don't work within the charity itself. The Friends of JDRF helps coor- dinate and manage costs of approved events. February 2012 How it works: Individuals or groups submit a proposal to the board of directors. If approved, Friends of JDRF assists in event promotion and ensuring funds get to the chosen charity. What kinds of events: An example of sponsored events include a yearly golf classic and Jessepalooza, an annual family friendly rock concert. How to get involved: Contact Michelle at friendsofjdrf@ Photo by Amber Arnold

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