8/19/2016
Turning Their Desire for a Cure
Into Donations from Friends and Family

When Gina Fortunato-Gehan turned 50 in July, she decided she wanted to have a big party for friends and family to help her celebrate. In lieu of gifts, she and her husband Kyle requested that guests contribute to type 1 diabetes research at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, where their daughter Arianna, is a patient.

Arianna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) when she was 11 years old. While in the hospital, she received many get-well wishes—but as she met with her caregivers, she quickly realized that instead of “get well” balloons they should say “get used to it”. 

The Gehans had been thinking of doing some kind of fundraiser for T1D and the Berrie Center, and Gina’s 50th provided the perfect opportunity. After attending the Berrie Center’s annual Diabetes Research Panel (an evening of questions and answers between Berrie Center scientists, clinicians, patients and families)—the Gehans learned about the work of stem cell biologist, Dieter Egli, PhD, where they want the gift to be directed.

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Dr. Egli is a world renowned expert in the creation of patient-specific stem cells. Dr. Egli and team are already curing diabetes in mice by using the skin cells from patients with diabetes at the Berrie Center and turning them into insulin-producing beta cells. “Once we learned about his work, we knew where we wanted this gift to go,” said Gina, who is looking forward to Dr. Egli’s experiment eventually working in people.

Arianna is proud of her parents for turning the family’s desire for a cure into donations from their friends and family. She said she feels empowered by it, and it “boosts confidence” which she also works on as a Girl Scout, where she helps newly diagnosed girls with T1D. 

"Thank you for including the Berrie Center in the wonderful celebration of your 50th birthday,” said Tori Bender, the Berrie Center’s outreach coordinator. “Your full life of friends and family is our blessing as well.”

Click here to read a description of Dr. Egli’s work that he wrote for the Gehan’s friends and family:

Click here to make a donation.