Sandra Diamond Fox, Contributing Writer
April has finally arrived and children everywhere are practicing for baseball season, which begins later this month. One kid who’s especially excited about playing again is 7-year-old Caleb Schlissel of Danbury.
For Caleb — who has always lived and breathed baseball — the season starts Friday with the Danbury Youth Baseball league.
“Before he could walk, he had a ball in his hand,” says Caleb’s mother, Lorraine Sisto. “For his first birthday, he had a ball-themed party with a cake in the shape of a baseball.”
Caleb plans on becoming a pitcher for the New York Yankees and says nothing will stand in his way — not even Type 1 diabetes, which he’s had for over three years.
That would explain why he chose baseball as the subject of the Bayer “Express Your Simple Wins Creativity Contest” he entered — and won.
The contest involved 17-year-old singer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers pop/rock band, who also has Type 1 diabetes. It was presented in conjunction with Bayer Healthcare Diabetes Care, which develops products that help simplify life for people with diabetes.
The nationwide contest was open to people ages 6 to 18 who are dealing with diabetes. Contestants were asked to put together a 15- to 30-second video demonstrating their “Simple Wins: small, everyday victories for managing diabetes.”
After the public voted online from more than 160 submissions, Jonas helped select Caleb’s video as one of three grand prize winners. The other winners were Bradley Brown, 11, from Pennsylvania, and Lauren Hermsen, 17, of Illinois.
Caleb’s video — which Sisto filmed — shows him playing baseball and talking about how much he loves the sport.
“Everyone in our family (which also includes father David Schlissel, brother Colin, 9, and sister, Lila, 4), is a huge fan of Nick Jonas. We have seen him perform in concert four times,” Sisto says. “We pretty much follow all things Nick.”
As one of the grand prize winners, Bayer HealthCare flew Caleb and his mother to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Florida for a meet and greet with Nick Jonas and the other winners.
When they first saw each other, “Nick went right up to Caleb and said `I know you’re a Yankees fan. You’re a good man,'” Sisto says. “He had remembered Caleb from his video.”
Jonas spoke to Caleb about his passion for baseball, and about living with diabetes. “Nick was very warm and very caring, and really focused on Caleb,” she adds of the meeting, which occurred in December.
“At the end of the event, they both pulled up their shirts to show each other their `pods,’ the OmniPod Insulin Management System, which supplies their bodies with insulin,” she says.
“I really liked meeting Nick because he has Type 1 diabetes like me. When I talked to him, I didn’t feel like I’m the only one with diabetes,” says Caleb, who is a first-grader at King Street Primary School in Danbury.
“It was very inspiring and encouraging to see a young person who is dealing with this and not letting it stop him from doing what he wants to do,” Sisto says.
Sisto spoke with Nick Jonas’ father, Paul Jonas (who goes by the name Kevin), who was also at the event. He told her his son is happy to be a role model for other kids with Type 1 diabetes.
“He said that when Nick was diagnosed, Nick didn’t have anyone to look up to who had the condition. Nick wants to be to other kids what he didn’t have for himself,” she says.
“This contest was put in place to help inspire kids with diabetes to express and share their simple wins,” says Judy Manning, director of consumer marketing for Bayer HealthCare Diabetes Care, located in Tarrytown, N.Y.
“Life alone for anyone is complicated, but it’s much more so for people living with diabetes. Between (the nuisance of) having to prick their finger to measure their blood sugar many times a day, and the social issues involved with caring for this disease in school and with friends, anything we can do to make it easier for them is important,” Manning says.
“With contests like these, we hope to inspire kids with diabetes to continue living their lives and not let diabetes get them down.”
As a grand prize winner, Caleb also received a glucose meter, a Jonas Nintendo DS game, a CD of Nick Jonas’ song “A Little Bit Longer” about living with diabetes; and an autographed copy of “Burning Up: On Tour with the Jonas Brothers,” a book written by all three Jonas brothers — Joe, Kevin and Nick.
This is the second contest Bayer Healthcare Diabetes Care held that involved Nick Jonas, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 13. In 2008, the company held a “Walk in Nick’s Shoes” sweepstakes. Winners got to meet Nick at the Juvenile Diabetes Walk in Los Angeles, Calif.
“When Caleb was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else who had this condition. When I first learned about Nick, for me, it got me over a hump. It’s not easy to do the performances he does which are so physically demanding while managing his blood sugars. Here is someone with this condition who is succeeding and living his dream,” Sisto says. “This means so much to me.”
Since learning about Nick Jonas, Caleb’s parents have become aware of other people in the public eye who share their son’s condition. Two of them include competitive cross-country skier Kris Freeman and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
“We got so much more out of this experience than just the excitement of meeting a celebrity,” Sisto says. “We felt a comfort around Nick and around the other contest winners, which made us feel that it’s going to be OK. Caleb will be able to become anything he wants to be.”
To view Caleb Schlissel’s winning video, log onto http://www.nickssimplewins.com.