At six years of age, Brian Curran was one of Joslin's youngest philanthropists, but he had and still has the ambition of someone much older. In 2004, when he was only five, Brian raised nearly $8,000 to support Joslin through a fundraiser of his own creation — Skate for a Cure.
It was the same year that Brian, an avid hockey player, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Brian's parents wanted him to view his diagnosis as an opportunity to do something constructive and empowering that would benefit others with diabetes. "It was important to us that Brian felt he could make a difference in his life and the lives of others," they explain.
Brian, his father Tim, who also happens to be his hockey coach, and mother Sue, a nurse, brainstormed about how Brian could help. They quickly formulated the idea for the event: Brian would skate 100 laps around a hockey rink, and with each lap, raise funds for Joslin patient care and research, which is focused on improving the lives of people with diabetes.
Sue volunteered to be Brian's “manager” and helped collect and process the many pledges that came in. Skate for a Cure received a lot of support from family, friends and even some local businesses. It took Brian about an hour to complete the 100th lap and he took only one short break! Everyone was impressed by Brian's motivation and determination and on the day of the event, his family cheered him on, including his parents, sister, two brothers and a cousin who also plays on his team.
A few weeks after the first Skate for a Cure, six year-old Brian presented the proceeds from his fundraiser to members of Joslin's Development Office. In gratitude, Joslin staff presented him with an autographed Nick Boynton Boston Bruins hockey stick. Nick, who also has type 1 diabetes and has worked with Joslin's pediatric program in the past, was impressed by Brian's accomplishment and wanted to express his support.
Little did Brian realize that just 3 years later he’d be sharing the daily regimen of diabetes management with his brother Tim, who at age 12 had just received the same diagnosis.
What does a close-knit, athletically-inclined family do when two strapping sons receive such news?
Why – they skate twice as hard! With the Curran family’s glass half full philosophy on full display, there was no question that Skate for a Cure would now be a 2-man skate; instead of 1 son skating 100 laps each year, two brothers skate 200 laps. An initial donation of $8,000 has grown to nearly $70,000 over the past 9 years, and a diagnosis that used to carry little hope for a long life, certainly not one that would allow for competitive athletics, has redefined the brothers’ relationship in a way that makes Sue Curran grateful. “They have each other’s backs,” she says.
Competitive by nature, Brian and Tim kid each other about who has the better A1C number (a 3-month average of blood sugar readings taken every 3 to 6 months) on the drive in to Joslin for their check-ups. “What’s yours, what’s yours?” they prod, and if one of them is off, they offer “Oh, I can do better!”
Brian and Tim take pride in the fact that they’re able to compete at their level of skill. “It takes a lot of planning,” notes Sue, “they have to think 2 hours ahead of every event…people don’t realize what they need to eat, to do, they can’t just participate spontaneously, just jump out of the car and go to a hockey game. It takes a lot of preparation and planning, but they’re used to it now.”
Sue gives Deborah Holtorf, her sons’ pediatric nurse practitioner, and her team high marks for managing their care over the past ten years. As a parent, “I feel empowered when I leave Joslin,” she added, “the first 6 months after Brian was diagnosed, they told me I could call or e-mail anytime.”
After years of living with diabetes, Tim and Brian are doing a great job taking care of themselves. Their care team, which includes family as well as Joslin’s pediatric team is “full strength” — a hockey term that means all players are on the ice. Standing alongside, is a community of supporters rooting for the home team, led by cheerleader-in-chief Sue Curran who proclaims, “To raise my children as healthy as I can into adulthood, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
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Page last updated: March 11, 2014