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Lions’ pride

In the community: For more than 10 years, LaCrescent Lions in southeast Minnesota have hosted free diabetes screenings during the community’s Applefest event in the fall. Each year they screen up to about 200 adults and children for diabetes. (Submitted photo)

A symbolic partnership aims to solve diabetes

In the wild, lions rely on their prides—communities in the animal kingdom—for protection, food, and other types of support. Members of Minnesota Lions clubs foster a similar sense of community by committing to causes that help others, such as cure-focused diabetes research.

The Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation, Inc. awarded a $50,000 grant last fall to University of Minnesota scientists, expanding the group’s commitment to diabetes research—specifically homing in on the study of kidney disease linked to type 2 diabetes.

Because diabetes is the most common cause of end-stage kidney disease, University researcher Luiza Caramori, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., says that if earlier markers of diabetic nephropathy can be found, preventive therapies could target patients at increased risk.

“We are studying the relationships between kidney structure and function in patients with diabetes. One of the goals is to compare these relationships between individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” she says.

“The Lions’ gift is a huge help—especially at a time when funding is more and more difficult,” says Caramori. “The Lions’ gift will provide us a rare opportunity to study precious research kidney biopsy materials. Hopefully, by better understanding the mechanisms associated with renal injury in diabetes, we can find ways to prevent and even cure kidney disease caused by diabetes.”

This grant is just one of the many ways the Minnesota Lions have stepped up to support diabetes research at the University.

After learning years ago about the University’s islet transplantation research led by Bernhard Hering, M.D., Duluth Lions Club member Larry Winner says he was energized and thought the Lions should be involved.

The Minnesota Lions went on to make a series of financial contributions to the University’s diabetes research (see the note below), and members also began serving as fundraising ambassadors.

Winner and other Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation trustees traveled around Minnesota and to several clubs in Northwest Ontario, motivating more than 570 Lions clubs to contribute to the University’s diabetes research through pancake events, golf benefits, and more.

In recognition of the group’s support, the MD5M Lions—which includes 676 clubs in Minnesota, Manitoba, and Northwest Ontario—will receive the American Diabetes Association’s Stop Diabetes Act Award in May.

“I’m proud and amazed,” says Winner, now vice chair of the Minnesota Lions Diabetes Foundation. “Thirteen years ago, I thought, ‘What can I do as one person?’ But it’s been awesome to see how much we could accomplish.”

-Karin Miller

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