How Four Locals Hope Good Food, an Open Bar and a Silent Dance Party Will Help Cure Type 1 Diabetes

Einstein was a 26-year-old unknown scientist when he revealed the first of his theories of relativity. It’s that kind of early-career scientific innovation that a cadre of locals is dedicated to finding. And this month, they’re hoping you’ll dance an evening away with them in support of that goal.

On Sept. 29, the Del Mar-based Diabetes Research Connection will hold its inaugural Dance for Diabetes. The night will be noteworthy for its casual, fun-first tone—expect tasty food stations, an open bar, music from Susan Foster of Encore Event Entertainment and a decidedly different vibe than other dressed-to-the-nines Del Mar events. But it’s also remarkable as a coming-out party of sorts for one of the most innovative nonprofits around.

A Sandbox for Scientists
Founded in 2012, the DRC serves as an incubator of scientific talent. Co-founder and Board Chair David Winkler—the well-known Del Mar lawyer and entrepreneur who himself was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6—describes it this way:

“We’re novel both in terms of our platform and the research that we’re funding,” he says. “We are funding these researchers who have difficulty accessing dollars from the NIH or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, because as a general rule they don’t fund anything under $100,000. We start at $50,000 to in essence feed the pipeline.”

Their platform will feel familiar if you’ve ever backed a cold brew coffee maker on Kickstarter or seeded a folding bike on Indiegogo. The DRC website features the fresh faces of 17 scientists who believe they know a path to knocking out diabetes. Read descriptions of their proposed projects, decide which researcher(s) you think should get to execute their proposals, and vote with your dollars. Once a funding goal is hit and the research begins, you can track the project’s progress on the website as well. It’s crowdfunding for a cure, and early signs are that it’s working.

“I think the proof of our success is when you see that those persons have then been able to have the research capability to line up additional funding,” says renowned diabetes expert Dr. Alberto Hayek, who serves as the DRC’s president and is one of its co-founders.

Dr. Hayek notes one scientist, for instance, whose DRC-backed research led to the awarding of a million-dollar grant from a private organization.
“Dr. Hayek was able to assemble a scientific review committee of over 80 of the top diabetes researchers in the United States and Canada who review these grant applications and determine whether or not the research is sound enough to end up on our website,” David says.

Why We Dance
The crowdfunding model is banging on all cylinders in support of the DRC’s mission. So why put the time, effort and expense into the Dance for Diabetes? Christina Kalberg is the DRC’s dedicated executive director. She says the organization has actually been keen to launch a signature event for a while, in part because it has access to the event-planning expertise of Dance for Diabetes Chair Sherry Ahern. Sherry and her husband, Kevin, have been supporting the DRC from its start and have a son with diabetes. But the time wasn’t right until now.

“We really have been laying the groundwork,” Christina says. “We’re at a place where we’re able to support an event like this, year over year.”

And, according to David, it’s needed.

“One of the things that’s really important about our website is that 100 percent of donations directed to a researcher’s lab go directly to that researcher, not to overhead. So events like this one cover some of our inevitable overhead,” he says.

Putting the Fun in Crowdfunding

“It’s basically going to be a fun, fun, F-U-N in capital letters party!” Sherry says. “You’re going to be dancing under the stars at Del Mar Plaza—fabulous food, great local restaurants, open bar.”

It’s a perfectly planned location, Sherry notes, since it was David and his business partner who built Del Mar Plaza back in 1989. There’s also complimentary valet parking—plus a late-night silent dance party!

“The combination of Del Mar’s noise ordinance and us not wanting to disturb the neighbors means that at 9:30, the band will keep playing, but people will put headsets on, and if you’re not wearing a headset you won’t hear the music,” David says.

The evening’s food stations will feature creations from Pacifica Del Mar, Shimbashi Izakaya, Cardiff Beach Bar @ Tower 13, Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana, Sbicca and Rendezvous Modern Chinese Cuisine. A silent auction will offer indulgences up for bid such as a resort stay in Maui, members-only access to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and an oceangoing luncheon on a private boat.

Sherry expects attendees to be a mix of people with diabetes in their family, those already involved with the organization, as well as folks who just want to attend a great party. It’s teaching those newcomers about the DRC that will equal a win to Sherry.

“If we can get through to just a few people, that’s a great thing.”

For tickets, visit DiabetesResearchConnection.org/DanceForDiabetes. For more information on the DRC, contact Christina Kalberg at 760.532.4849 or ckalberg@diabetesresearchconnection.org.