Father of the Year Awards Join the Fight to Stop Diabetes
Americans have celebrated Father's Day in some places for as long as a century, but it wasn't until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed a law that permanently recognized the third Sunday in June as a national holiday. The move was a victory for the Father's Day Council, a group of business leaders and citizens created three decades earlier to promote the holiday and honor prominent men for their role as dads.
What started as a way to promote Father's Day eventually grew into a major philanthropic effort: The council's National Father's Day Committee decided that its annual Father of the Year Awards should benefit family-oriented organizations. As a result, the committee has formed a partnership with ADA to raise funds for the fight to stop diabetes.
"Father of the Year is a very family-involved event, and unfortunately diabetes is also a family [condition]. It affects everybody," says Howard Rosenberg, the council's director of market development. Rosenberg's own motivation to stop diabetes comes from his grandfather, who died of complications of type 1 diabetes when Rosenberg was 13.
Since 1999, the two organizations together have raised more than $21 million for ADA. Each June since 1942, the council, now known as the Father's Day/Mother's Day Council, has honored National Fathers of the Year. They have ranged from Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1942 to Gen. David Petraeus last year, and included the likes of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, and Humphrey Bogart. In addition, ADA and the council honor about 80 dads at formal dinners in nearly 20 cities across the country. The regional award recipients are community and business leaders who have made family a priority and who are committed to helping ADA fund diabetes research, education, and advocacy programs.
Jorjanne Murry, a certified public accountant, has helped coordinate the Father of the Year Awards in Charlotte, N.C., since the event first came to the city a decade ago. Murry, who has type 1 diabetes, was eager to get involved. "This is what everyone wishes for: to be thanked for their efforts," she says. Honored dads, who agree to raise funds for ADA the year of their award, invite friends, family, and colleagues to celebrate at the annual dinner. A highlight of the evening is the screening of videos of family photos and interviews for each honoree.
"I've seen ex-fighter pilots cry and chief executives so choked up they couldn't talk," Murry says. "It's hard to describe the profound effect it has on the honored dads when they see a video of their children and their wife thanking them for their love and support, time and inspiration, and leadership in the family."
Charlotte volunteers say that the event has also helped raise awareness of diabetes. Pat Higgins, editor of the Union County Weekly newspaper in Charlotte, marketing and communications chair of the ADA Community Leadership Board, and co-chair of Charlotte's Father's Day Council, says that knowledge of diabetes is crucial. She believes that her own type 2 diabetes could have been diagnosed well before it was in 1997, after she started experiencing neuropathy in her feet. "When I was diagnosed," she says, "I thought, 'I've been diabetic for a really long time.'"
Many of the dads honored in Charlotte remain involved in trumpeting the event year after year and talking publicly about diabetes. One former winner, the Rev. David Chadwick, pastor at Forest Hill Church, interviews honorees every year on the Father's Day edition of his Sunday radio show. Local TV and radio stations, and local publications including the Charlotte Observer and La Noticia, the city's Spanish-language newspaper, cover the event, run public service announcements, or both. High-profile honorees like Mike Minter, who played safety for the NFL's Carolina Panthers; NASCAR team owner Felix Sabates; Alvaro de Molina, former chief financial officer of Charlotte-based Bank of America; and Chris Kearney, chief executive of SPX Corp., help with publicity.
For the fathers of the year, the experience of being honored for their role in the family, and of getting involved in fighting diabetes, is special. "We have a lot of people who've received a lot of awards, and they always say this is the most important one to them," Murry says. "In the end, we can always be replaced at our jobs, but no one can replace a dad in his child's eyes."