Ambitious first-year continues charity
Erik Douds ’14 was diagnosed with type-one diabetes during his sophomore year of high school. “ “When I was first diagnosed, my entire life changed, every time I ate I had to inject myself with insulin. It was as if the disease had taken hold of my life completely,” Douds said. After several months of relying entirely on multiple insulin injections every day, Douds’ physician recommended he try an insulin pump in lieu of the injections.
The insulin pump does away with the inconvenience and burden of daily injections by providing an “as-needed” supply of insulin to the body based on glucose levels and carbohydrate consumption. “Switching from the injections to the insulin pump completely changed my life and made dealing with diabetes far more manageable,” Douds said.
Although the insulin pump is a viable alternative to insulin injections, it is extremely costly. The pump itself retails for about $5,000; luckily, most insurance companies cover the entire cost of the pump. However, the pump requires several expensive accessories that must be replaced regularly in order for the device to be effective. Those who use the pump must regularly purchase insulin cartridges and infusion sets, the costs of which are not covered by insurance companies and therefore prevent many diabetes sufferers who could potentially benefit from the insulin pump from being able to use it.
“When I saw the tremendous impact [that] the insulin pump had on my life, I thought of those who could also benefit from its use but simply could not afford it,” Douds said. “I decided to talk to my doctor about what I could do personally to make this [pump] more readily accessible to those who really needed it.”
After a conversation with his doctor and family, Douds decided to start his very own foundation called the Erik Douds Pediatric Diabetes Fund. This foundation is devoted to providing financial aid to New Jersey families who can’t afford to provide their diabetic children with the insulin pump. The fund is also committed to providing recently diagnosed diabetes patients with educational materials that address the facts of living with diabetes.
Douds began his fundraising effort a couple months after transitioning to the pump by selling candy at his high school, Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey. “It took me a little over a year to raise about $5,000 from selling candy. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive school community [that] aid[ed] me in my efforts.”
Although Douds was proud of his fundraising efforts at his school, he realized that the initial $5000 only represented the beginning of the Erik Douds Pediatric Diabetes Fund. On his eighteenth birthday, Douds decided to turn his birthday party into a fundraising event. “I invited my classmates, their families, my teachers and neighbors to my birthday and I collected around $1,000 dollars for the foundation. It was really nice to see how much people were willing to help out.”
Douds also received a sizable donation of $2,500 dollars from New Jersey’s Lions Club, which is currently working to aid the blind. The Lions Club is the largest international community service organization and is committed to attacking large problems to the local level and making tangible changes in communities across the globe. Since blindness is a potential side effect of diabetes, the Lions Club saw Douds’ efforts as applicable to their cause.
The Erik Douds Pediatric Diabetes Fund operates only within New Jersey, but Douds is hoping to expand his efforts to the state of Maine. “From what I have seen in Maine, especially in Waterville, there is a lot more poverty than in New Jersey, I think that the Erik Douds Fund can make a real difference here,” Douds said.
Last year, the median household income in New Jersey was among the highest in the country at $64,918, and 6.7% of the population reported themselves as diabetic. However, according to the United States Census Bureau the median household income in Maine was far lower at $45,734 and 7.4% of the population in Maine is afflicted with diabetes. Considering Mainers’ financial straits and elevated rate of diabetes, it seems that the state is a particularly appropriate target for the foundation’s expansion.
Only a first-year, Douds has already made a name for himself with his charitable efforts, and he will certainly leave a stamp on the school and the state in the years to come.