Samantha Redden is the development coordinator for JDRF in Dayton. She is shown at the JDRF walk last year. CONTRIBUTED

Woman who has lived with diabetes since childhood gives back

Growing up south of Dayton, Samantha Redden had a fairly typical childhood. But when she was just 9 years old, her mother noticed Samantha looked pale and had started losing weight. She also developed a chronic thirst.

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April of 1997,” Redden said. “My mom looked up my symptoms online and took me into my pediatrician.”

Redden said she doesn’t remember much about that time, except being picked up early from school and heading to see her doctor, who tested her blood and found her blood sugar was elevated.

“My mom was crying and the doctor sent me to the hospital on that day,” Redden said.

That marked the beginning of living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for Redden and today she says she doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t dealing with the disease. But she does remember that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) was one of the first organizations that made a connection with the family.

“They (JDRF) gave me a teddy bear named Rufus,” Redden said. “He had patches on his body so you could practice giving him insulin injections. I still have Rufus.”

Redden began her own insulin injections right away to help keep her skyrocketing blood sugar under control. T1D is characterized by a failure of the pancreas to produce insulin, a naturally occurring hormone in the body that regulates blood sugar. Also known as juvenile diabetes, T1D typically develops and is diagnosed in children and adults under the age of 40.

As Redden grew, she benefited from the advancing research funded by JDRF.

“I feel like I can speak really well about where the technology was 20 years ago,” Redden said. “I was taking two shots a day when I was first diagnosed and had to be very calculated with my diet.”

By the time Redden was about 13, she began a regimen of background insulin shots coupled with insulin every time she ate something, which gave her more freedom. By age 16, she got her first insulin pump, which continuously supplies her body with the needed hormone 24 hours a day.

“The pump was a game changer for me,” Redden said. “About three years ago, I got my first continuous glucose monitor, which monitors my sugar all the time.”

Last year, Redden took on the role of Dayton development coordinator for JDRF and is now working for the organization that has supported her and her family from the time she was diagnosed 20 years ago.

“Our family has been involved with JDRF since day one,” Redden said. “My dad was the board president when I was younger and I volunteered with the Dayton Action Council. When the position opened up last year (her current role), I jumped on it!”

Redden brought with her a background in fundraising and having worked for several local nonprofits, had experience with special events.

Coming up on April 28 is the JDRF Boa and Bow Tie Ball, a unique cocktail party that is the first of its kind in the Dayton area. The event will feature live entertainment, interactive food and spirits stations with celebrity bartenders and live and silent auctions.

“We’ve always had an annual gala event in Dayton,” Redden said. “But we wanted to do something different this year – something really fun and a little less ‘stiff’ than your typical gala. It will be high energy from start to finish!”

The event is expected to attract 350 people to the Dayton Masonic Center and Redden said they hope to raise $150,000. All proceeds will go to support the JDRF mission of supporting research to eventually find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Redden said she hopes the event will attract not only those who are affected by T1D in some way, but also those who don’t have a connection to the disease.

“We want this event to be inclusive of the entire community,” Redden said. “You don’t have to know someone with type 1 to be there. We just want people to know more about our mission and that every single day, JDRF is doing amazing things by giving hope to everyone with this disease.”

For more information about the Boa and Bow Tie Ball and JDRF, log on to Boabowtieball.org.

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