Sunday, October 25, 2009

Oktoberfest Rolicks Old Angler's Inn for Diabetes Benefit

Dr. Fran Cogen has a dream. As the nation braces for a tsunami of childhood obesity and related diseases, the pediatrician and diabetes expert is racing to establish a holistic care center at Childrens National Medical Center to treat a growing number of young victims.

"It's like being hit with a sledgehammer when a child gets diagnosed with a chronic, life-threatening illness like diabetes," she said. "They need survival skills, they need education." And they need therapy. Cogen's latest effort is to establish a new Pediatric Diabetes Care Complex at Childrens so that area victims and their families can get the help they need.

That's why Teatro Goldoni's Enzo Fargione and area chefs joined the Washington Nationals and good-guy Ted Leonsis in a rousing Oktoberfest celebration Saturday at Old Angler's Inn in Potomac -- to raise the final $500,000 necessary to build the $2 million complex. In 2007, the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation committed $1.25 million in cash and $750,000 in assets.

Fargione's daughter Chiara was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age three. "She didn't know anything, and all of a sudden she had to adjust to insulin and syringes. Her mother was wonderful. We're not married anymore, but we're good friends," he said. "I think it's nice."

Chiara's mother, Potomac native Maury Byrne, smiled with her daughter as they sashayed under a sea of tents between the oom pah pah band, the bratwurst stands, and luxurious food stations provided by Teatro, the Peacock Cafe, D'Acqua, and Jeff Black of Blacksalt and the Black Restaurant Group.

"Enzo was instrumental in getting this together," Byrne said, tossing a compliment back to her ex. They met when Byrne was 22, and Enzo was a sous-chef at Galileo. Both worked across the D.C. restaurant landscape. Not long after they married, daughter Chiara was born. "Then she got sick," Byrne said.

Now 19, the Montgomery College student still needs the care that only Childrens provides. "We're there twice a week," Byrne says. "It can be a three-hour exercise."

Old Angler's Inn owners Sara and Mark Reges and Jeff Black, the parents of diabetic kids, were joined by event chairs Susan and Tom Faries, Mimi and Bob Schwartz, Marla and Robert Tanenbaum, and Judy Weisman to support the planned 6,500 sq. ft. complex.

"Schools are not doing enough" to educate and prevent the obesity that leads to what used to be called "adult-onset" or Type 2 diabetes, Dr. Cogen said. "School lunches should be consistent with moderate food choices," she said. "The fructose in corn syrup," a staple of school cafeterias, "is a disaster." Once obesity leads to diabetes, the illness cannot be reversed.

But there's hope. Dr. Cogen points to Supersize Me, Fast Food Nation, and recent documentary Food Inc. as good sources of the facts. And she won't stop fighting this 21st Century scourge. "This is my life," she said. That's a positive diagnosis.

Posted to HOP by "The Mole" a.k.a Beth Solomon, HOP correspondent