Diabetes Forecast

A Legacy on and off the Field

Quarterback Donovan McNabb is Honored as an ADA Father of the Year

By Katie Bunker , ,

Donovan McNabb spent Father's Day last year with close to 150 kids. Even though only one little girl there could call him "Dad," all of the children at the weeklong American Diabetes Association Donovan McNabb Camp for Kids in Green Lane, Pa., had looked forward to this visit. This June, for his leadership as an athlete and his commitment to family, McNabb was honored as an American Diabetes Association Father of the Year.

On the gridiron, McNabb is an elite National Football League quarterback who has spent his whole 10-year career with Philadelphia and led the Eagles to five NFC championship games and a Super Bowl (a 2005 loss to New England). A five-time Pro Bowl selection, McNabb holds a raft of Eagles records, including career wins, pass completions, and passing touchdowns. In his green-and-white No. 5 jersey, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound McNabb is easy to spot both on the field and off, where he co-stars in Campbell's Chunky Soup commercials alongside his mother, Wilma.

But McNabb has also made a name for himself spreading the word about diabetes. The Donovan McNabb Foundation, which he formed in 2000, the year after the Eagles drafted him out of Syracuse University, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for ADA. The foundation has also supported the diabetes camp since 2001. "My foundation is something that's close to me. I have a lot of relatives who have diabetes and a lot of friends who have been diagnosed," says McNabb, 32, who grew up in Chicago. He lost his grandmother, Maude Eva Jenkins, to diabetes-related complications in 1997; his father, Samuel McNabb, a retired electrical engineer, was diagnosed with type 2 in 1996. Part of the foundation's goal in raising diabetes awareness, says Donovan McNabb, is "making sure [people] go and talk to their doctors, get tested for it, and learn more about it." His entire family—father Sam; mother Wilma, a registered nurse who is now executive director of the McNabb Foundation; brother Sean; and Donovan—supports the awareness effort.

Gone Camping

Want to send your child to an ADA Diabetes Camp next summer? To learn more about the American Diabetes Association Donovan McNabb Camp for Kids or another diabetes camp, visit diabetes.org/camps. There you can also fill out a form to be added to the 2010 camp brochure mailing list.

Equally important, however, is helping those who are already living with diabetes. Visiting his camp, McNabb says, is an "opportunity for me to sit down with those kids and communicate with them one on one and let them know: Yes, you're diagnosed with diabetes, but never let that take you away from the goals you set for yourself."

At camp, McNabb shoots hoops with the kids, plays volleyball, and spends time talking with some of his youngest fans. Liz Jordan, 19, a counselor who used to attend McNabb's camp herself, says that her young charges light up when McNabb comes to visit. "He really likes to get involved. He'll play sports with the campers, take the time to personally introduce himself, and talk to people," says Jordan. "You can tell that he really cares about the cause and cares about every person at camp."

McNabb and his wife, Raquel, are the parents of three children, 4-year-old Alexis and twins Donovan, Jr., and Sariah, born in December. He strives to follow his father's advice in raising his own kids. "My father always told me, 'Make sure you're there, whether it's academics, a decision, confusion they may have,' " says McNabb. "My father always was there for me—in academics, athletics, whatever it may be, I knew I could always count on my dad."

Being that kind of father while maintaining the schedule of a high-profile professional athlete is no small feat. McNabb spends his off-season every year with his family in Arizona, where he'll drive Alexis to preschool, spend time with the twins, and even catch a show ("Hannah Montana on Ice" was Alexis's pick). He says he encourages Alexis, whose current passion is cheerleading, to pursue the things she loves. "You want to open up the door for your kids and give them the opportunity to make their own decisions," he says.

At a press conference last season, reporters asked McNabb about his legacy. He responded that "legacies are something that you don't think about until you're done." But as for his legacy off the field, McNabb hopes to leave a great one behind for his kids. "I want my kids to know their father was always there for them," he says, "truly loved them, and wanted to do whatever it takes to make them happy."

A Day For Dads

The American Diabetes Association and the Father's Day Council are hosting 16 Father of the Year events around the nation this year. In Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb is one of four fathers being honored. The others are:

Douglas R. Conant, president and chief executive officer of Campbell Soup Co. He and his wife, Leigh Susan, are the parents of three children.

Anthony J. Conti, a managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Philadelphia. He and his wife, Linda, have three children and three grandchildren.

Thomas E. White, director of sales for United Parcel Service in the Philadelphia Metro area. He and his wife, LaWanda, have two daughters.



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test