Defeat Diabetes Foundation (DDF) was established in 1990, by brothers Andrew P. Mandell and Jerald Y. Mandell. For the two brothers it was personal. Andrew had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1985. As he learned more about diabetes he realized that he was actually the perfect profile to develop the disease. Had he known more about diabetes it was possible that he could have prevented or delayed its development!
The founders looked at the numbers of people with diabetes and the estimates of people who had the disease and didn’t know it. They began to understand the real unmet need in the community was to create awareness about Type 2 diabetes and it’s early identification and prevention.
So DDF started small, in the local Tampa Bay Florida area, testing individuals for diabetes and creating tools to inform people of their potential to develop the disease.
In 1991, Executive Director Andrew P. Mandell adopted the moniker Mr. Diabetes® to put a human face on what was then, an invisible condition.
In 1995, DDF developed the most comprehensive diabetes risk assessment screening test available and began disseminating that material to organizations and individuals.
DDF was still looking for that “Big” awareness event to really bring the message home about the risks of Type 2 diabetes. They hit on that idea in 1995 – to have Mr. Diabetes®, who had always been an exercise enthusiast, run a series of marathons across the state of Florida to raise awareness about the disease.
Training began in earnest and then disaster struck. One morning Mr. Diabetes® woke to feel his body on fire. His diabetes was out of control and he quickly became so sick he was bed ridden. He returned to his home town of Boston and prepared himself to die.
But just like Rocky Balboa, he’s was down but not out. He decided to fight back and with the assistance of Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston he regained control of his diabetes.His future included daily insulin injections because he was now insulin dependent.
During his physical rehabilitation the founders still sought that great awareness event. Unfortunately, Mr. Diabetes® could no longer run, his diabetes has resulted in a condition called diabetic neuropathy which caused him numbness, tingling, pain in his legs as well as balance problems.
DDF conceived the idea for the Wake Up and Walk® Tour, a 10,000 mile walk of the perimeter of the United States to create awareness about the disease in communities large and small. Executive Director Andrew P. Mandell – Mr. Diabetes® dedicates the time to undertake the journey personally and literally take the message to the streets.
In 2000 Mr. Diabetes® sets off on a trial walk. This 450 mile jaunt helps the Foundation fine tune the actual needs for the rigors of the road as well as procedures and logistics.
With logistics and minor health concerns ironed out Mr. Diabetes® returned to road in 2002 to continue his walk of the perimeter of the United States.
THE WALK™ exceeds all expectations regarding outreach and awareness. Mr. Diabetes® conducts outreach to schools, civic organizations, elected officials and government program administrators regarding the issue of diabetes. He conducts over 1,000 radio, television and print interviews reaching 186 million Americans. He receives over 100 proclamations from elected officials and meets with top level diabetes researchers across the country.
In December 2008, he completes THE WALK™ “splashing down” in the Gulf of Mexico at Madeira Beach FL – where the journey began.
In the five years since completion of the Wake Up and Walk® Tour, DDF has continued to develop forward thinking programs to create awareness about diabetes including the KIDD™ Curriculum, Defeat Diabetes® Rules for Survival – Ebook Series, Pet Diabetes Awareness Program and more.
In addition to our work with diabetes related awareness and prevention programs we have also established a number of relationships with other organizations where we work together to on issues related to food and health policy particularly surrounding children. These organizations include: