The weather turned warm and I took out the bin of short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Caleb’s first choice was emphatically this shirt:
It’s cute, right? But it’s more than a cute shirt. It’s the shirt that Lauren gave him.
Caleb met Lauren this past December. She was one of the other two Simple Wins winners. Caleb completely loved meeting Nick Jonas, but the impact of meeting Lauren and Bradley was just as significant. They are also rock stars in Caleb’s eyes.
When Lauren, Bradley and Caleb were waiting to meet Nick, I saw that Lauren was holding three gift bags. Caleb had his Burning Up book for Nick to sign and a heartfelt note to give him. I saw three bags and thought three brothers – Nick, Joe and Kevin.
One of those bags was indeed for Nick, but the other two were not for Nick’s brothers, but for two other young men: Caleb and Bradley. In Caleb’s bag was a beautiful, thoughtful note, a DVD featuring former Chicago Cub and fellow T1D, Ron Santo, a package of Starburts (perfect for lows at 4 carbs a piece) and the red shirt.
How amazing is Lauren? It’s no wonder that Caleb could be smitten with her. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She touched Caleb.
Even though the total amount of time spent with Lauren and Bradley was only a handful of hours, Caleb sees them as his friends. They are the first people he has met in person and socialized with that live with T1D. He celebrated something great and fun with them. Diabetes brought them together for something GOOD.
I will remember meeting them and their moms as much as I will remember meeting Nick. I believe Caleb will too.
He picked Lauren’s shirt first and continues to throw it on his back as soon as it is out of the wash. It’s right up there with his NYY garb. Doesn’t that say it all?
Ready to Play: Danbury boy shares a bond with pop star Nick Jonas
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.”
We first learned of Nick at our OmniPod training in April 2007. Caleb was diagnosed only months earlier and one of the things that provided me great comfort was learning about people living full, enriching lives with diabetes. I heard of everyday people – someone’s friend’s daughter or other patients of Caleb’s endo. There weren’t too many public figures living with diabetes that I found relatable. So when I heard of a young man who was diagnosed shortly before Caleb, using the same pump as Caleb, and was continuing with his career in the public eye, I was intrigued.
Since then, Caleb has become a true Nick fan. He owns his music, has been to his concerts, and has various books, magazines and paraphernalia featuring Nick and his brothers. Caleb enjoys singing, plays the piano, is learning the guitar and recently acquired a set of drums which he practices daily – sound familiar?
When I saw the tweet from Amy about Bayer’s Express Your Simple Win contest last spring, Caleb and I got to work. In October he found out he was one of three grand prize winners and would be meeting Nick in Orlando.
Caleb, his brother Colin and I had the privilege of meeting Kevin, Joe and Nick at their concert in Bethel Woods in August 2008. It was a fantastic experience. We waited two hours to meet them for about 2 minutes. As soon as Nick heard that Caleb also has diabetes, his focus was 100% on Caleb. There were high fives, fist bumps, some words exchanged, a picture taken and huge smiles. Caleb’s reaction was priceless. He skipped out of there declaring, “that was totally worth the wait!!” I saw firsthand the real, tangible influence that Nick has. Two minutes was a thrill; I couldn’t imagine what an intimate meeting would be like.
Here’s how it went:
Upon checking in at the hotel, we heard, “Are you here for the Simple Wins contest? Is that Caleb?” It was Bradley, one of the other winners, and his mom. Caleb was so excited to meet them. That night, Caleb and I stepped out on the balcony of our room and heard, “Oh my goodness – is that Caleb? We’ve been looking for you all day!” It was Lauren, the other winner, with her mom and sister on the balcony next to us. Another great thrill. Meeting Bradley and Lauren was a prize in and of itself to Caleb. They were able to talk amongst themselves, whether about baseball, singing, helping the community, or about diabetes, and feel connected. There was an instant bond.
On the day of the meet, the winners were brought to a grand conference room. Inside they chatted, took pictures and waited. First came Big Rob. He greeted everyone (or perhaps scoped out the room for Nick’s safety) and took pictures. Caleb was on top on the world. Rob left and while everyone talked about what fun that was, Nick nonchalantly entered.
The first thing I remember him saying was to Caleb: “I know that YOU are a Yankees fan. You’re a good man.” I didn’t think it could get better than that moment. The four of them spoke of their interests, their stay in Orlando, the music they liked and they talked about diabetes too. He asked Caleb if he ever went low while he was playing baseball. It was nice. It was comfortable. It was exciting.
They took some pictures, Nick autographed Caleb’s Burning Up book on the page where Nick talks about his diabetes (Caleb proudly declaring, “I read the whole thing”). Then they sat down and chatted some more. Caleb talked about the concerts he attended. Nick recalled being under the weather at one of them. They talked more about the Yankees and the World Series. Nick described how he watched the series on a laptop in Italy at six in the morning. Then “Bounce” became a topic of conversation and Caleb was invited to perform his version of Bog Rob’s “chicken wing” and “ham and cheese”. Big Rob came back in to watch. It was a reserved performance on Caleb’s part, but still great to see it bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
I spoke with Nick’s father, another kind and gracious man. Upon thanking him, he responded, “we understand”. It’s true. They know. He explained that Nick does this because when he was diagnosed, he wanted to know of the athletes and musicians and other public figures who were living with diabetes. The list was short. Nick understands the comfort it brings, and his ability to provide it. So he does.
I spoke to Nick. I took the chance to explain why what he does is important to us. Caleb doesn’t wonder if diabetes will limit him. He has virtually always had Nick as a point of reference to know that it won’t. I don’t think Caleb has yet to even consider if diabetes could be an obstacle to anything he wants to do. I credit Nick a great deal for giving that to him and I told him so.
As things were wrapping up, Caleb mentioned to Nick that they used the same insulin pump. They took turns pulling up their shirts showing each other their Pods.
I have never seen Caleb smile so big or for so long. Ever.
Thank you Nick. Thank you Bayer. You have created meaningful, lifelong memories. The day itself was a thrill, but what I hope is that at least one day in Caleb’s future, when diabetes is proving difficult, he will think back to this meeting in Orlando. He will remember a young man that was not all that different from himself: a young gentleman, with a curl to his hair, a love of music, a charming smile and the same daily challenges to manage his blood sugar.
I hope he will think of Nick and remember that diabetes didn’t slow him down and it doesn’t have to slow Caleb down either.