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Within the Realm of Hope

The newly crowned Miss America joins the PADRE Foundation's gala to raise funds for diabetes reseach, education and support services.

October 13, 1998

The event: Journey to Camelot, a luncheon and fashion show featuring performances by diabetic children and a visit from real-life royalty--Miss America. The Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research and Education (PADRE) Foundation staged the gala at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim on Saturday to raise funds for diabetes research, education and support services.

Back to Camelot: The hotel's Grand Ballroom was something out of a fairy tale: On stage stood a medieval castle shrouded in mist, through whose gates models emerged sporting the latest fall fashions from MainPlace/Santa Ana.

Before a crowd of 800, more than 40 children took to the runway to model and perform as the colorful knights and ladies of the realm.

There she is: Nicole Johnson, the newly crowned Miss America from Virginia, attended the show two days after launching her national campaign to educate people about diabetes. "Most people don't understand how devastating the disease can be," said Johnson, 24, who has diabetes.

At 19, she lost 20 pounds, half of her hair and was thirsty "all of the time" before doctors discovered she had diabetes.

Clad in a leopard-print jacket, Johnson showed the audience her crown but refused to wear it because she didn't want to "take attention away from the message."

Johnson agreed to attend the benefit after receiving an e-mail from 11-year-old Mallory Ross, a diabetic and PADRE member. "It's neat to have someone really famous know what you're feeling," Mallory said after meeting Johnson.

Pump it up: The Pump Girls, four diabetic teens who wear the same kind of insulin pump worn by Miss America, sang and danced their way down the runway sporting the pager-sized devices. The pumps are an alternative to syringe therapy and make it easier for patients to self-administer insulin in the proper dosage.

"The Pump Girls convey the message that pumps are cool," said event chairwoman Priscilla Koury, whose 16-year-old daughter Jami wears a pump. "They let people live a normal life."

The luncheon honored Al Mann, founder, chairman and CEO of MiniMed Inc., the company that makes the insulin pump worn by about one-third of diabetics who take insulin.

Quote: "PADRE offers education and support that families can't get anywhere else," said Steve Speer, whose 12-year-old daughter Stephanie has diabetes. "We teach families how to cope."

Faces: Elgene Van Dyk, event co-chairwoman; Jackie Teichmann, executive director of PADRE; Bill Ross, outgoing board president; Tom Pavlik, newly elected board president, and his wife, Debi; Heather Speer, Joan French, Mariellen Ross, Phorisha Gatewood and Joane Less.

Bottom line: Journey to Camelot was expected to net more than $100,000. Proceeds will go to the Diabetes Research Laboratory at Children's Hospital of Orange County and for PADRE's support services for families and patients.

Mark the calendar: Dr. Peter Chase, clinical director of the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver, will speak about the Diabetes Prevention Trial and new technology Oct. 21 at CHOC in Orange. Call (714) 532-8330.

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