Sat10252014

Community

Diabetes nonprofit makes name for itself in Bay Area


Tamar Sofer-Geri

A Los Altos resident’s startup nonprofit continues to makes strides – albeit small ones.

Tamar Sofer-Geri, who founded Carb DM in 2011, said her organization is slowly becoming a recognized entity in supporting and educating Bay Area families affected by Type 1 diabetes. Also known as juvenile diabetes, the autoimmune disease affects 5 percent of all diabetics in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association.

Originally profiled by the Town Crier in April 2012, Sofer-Geri noted that since its founding, Carb DM is undergoing a small growth spurt. Donations to the nonprofit – which hosts monthly support groups and other educational events – have increased from $4,500 in 2011 to approximately $55,000 in 2013, she said. And while those numbers might seem small to some, an incremental buildup of the organization suits Sofer-Geri just fine.

“We’re trying to be very prudent with our growth because we don’t want to get to a point where we suddenly can’t manage it,” said Sofer-Geri, who founded Carb DM after her daughter, Tia, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Building understanding

Donations aren’t the only indication of her organization’s success. Sofer-Geri said Carb DM has taken a lead role in a first-of-its-kind event, combining medical and nonprofit groups for an inaugural Bay Area Diabetes Summit, slated March 15 at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward. The daylong event will feature presentations on advances in technology and stem cell research and handling emotional aspects related to the disease, among other topics.

“Often, each medical group would hold their own diabetes day, but this is the first time everyone is really coming together to do it,” Sofer-Geri said. “It is, I think, a testament to the fact that we can not only bring the community together, but the medical community as well.”

Following the summit, Carb DM is scheduled to host its first mother-daughter weekend March 28-30 in Dublin. The event, Sofer-Geri said, aims to “build better communication and better understanding” between mothers and daughters dealing with the disease – especially through the teen years.

“It’s all about Type 1 diabetes from the female perspective,” she said. “The teenage years can already be rough on any mother-daughter (relationship), and then you throw Type 1 diabetes into it – both the emotional and physical side. It can really throw a wrench into things.”

Tip of the iceberg

As for the organization’s regular services, Sofer-Geri noted that Carb DM has expanded its support groups to four Bay Area locations – the South Bay, the East Bay, San Francisco and Sacramento. Part of that expansion includes Spanish-language support programming. Overall, Sofer-Geri noted that all of Carb DM’s support services are structured to specific groups: parents, teens, younger children and others. In addition, Carb DM now offers a monthly speaker series, featuring presentations from medical professionals and other experts who deal with the different aspects of Type 1 diabetes.

“It’s education and support,” said Sofer-Geri, who now runs the organization with the help of two part-time staff members and a host of volunteers. “The emotional burden of Type 1 diabetes is tremendous. It’s never-ending, it’s not predictable (and) you constantly feel like you’re failing.”

And while she’s pleased with Carb DM’s progress, Sofer-Geri readily admitted that her work is far from over. Around every corner, she said, are more families and individuals with Type 1 diabetes searching for support and a sense of community.

“When I started this almost three years ago, I never envisioned I’d be doing something like running a Bay Area diabetes summit,” she said. “But still, there’s so much more to do. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

For more information, visit carbdm.org.

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