Jack’s and Children’s of Alabama announced a partnership to raise funds for juvenile diabetes by inviting communities statewide to purchase paper icons for $1 at Jack’s restaurants from June 3 to 30. The program will also increase awareness through in-store signage. This targeted campaign will support ill and injured children at Alabama’s only hospital dedicated solely to the treatment of children through specialized medical care.
For years, Jack’s CEO and owner, Benny LaRussa, and his son, Sterling Capital Management president Benny LaRussa Jr., have supported programs that benefit research for juvenile diabetes.
The money raised throughout the campaign will go toward three initiatives, including supporting the transitional clinic, a collaborative effort with UAB’s Kirklin Clinic that transitions diabetic patients from child to adult care.
“Research is required to find a cure for juvenile diabetes. However, this campaign is significant because these children need to be cared for until a cure is found,” LaRussa Jr. says. “Today, Children’s is largely taking care of those patients. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership.”
Dr. Mary Lauren Scott, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s of Alabama, emphasized the push in all regards for transitional care as it relates to diabetes. As a chronic illness, there is no cure, meaning children will continue living with the disease and treating it for life.
“The main issue for some of these children is that they’ve been diagnosed as infants, toddlers, or grade-schoolers. At that time, the parental figures administer the medicine, navigate the physician’s office, work with insurance, fill prescriptions – basically everything that comes up when you’re dealing with a medical problem,” Scott says. “What we try to do is not only prepare the patient for college or their career after high school, but prepare them to be responsible patients who will know how to take care of themselves as adults.”
The transitional program begins when patients are as young as 15 years old. Educators offer basic transitional teachings and hold yearly retreats to teach patients about transitional issues in a more intensive fashion.
“The unfortunate reality is that adult providers are not pediatric providers. Their offices are not set up to provide the intensive care that we provide in pediatrics,” Scott says. “Our goal is to train each patient to be self-sufficient so they do not fall through the cracks.”
In addition to the transitional clinic, the money raised will go towards maintaining and improving the standard of care given to juvenile diabetics whom are treated at Children’s. Funds will also support a fellowship program that recruits residents throughout the country who complete their endocrinology fellowship at Children’s.
“The demand for endocrinologists is exceedingly high, making it very difficult to attract talent into the field of diabetic medicine,” LaRussa Jr. says. “We‘ve worked together to develop a fellowship program to recruit talent as part of their training with the objective of getting them to Birmingham and welcoming them as part of this community. Ideally, their experience will be such that, upon graduating, they will have a strong desire to stay at Children’s and serve this community.”
Emily Hornak, director of community development at Children’s, emphasized the need for such programs and hopes the campaign will have local recognition for a cause that has international implications.
“The paper icon campaign enables every person to have an impact on the greater good for Children’s of Alabama, knowing that 100 percent of the money stays local,” Hornak says. “Sometimes people think that a dollar doesn’t matter, but when you add up every person who supports this program, you have a large impact. Every customer and person in the Jack’s community has the opportunity to make a difference.”