Just in time for the holiday, the all-volunteer Father’s Day Council Tucson and six local dads are flexing their muscles against Type 1 diabetes in hopes of raising at least $300,000 to benefit UA Steele Children’s Research Center.

Rosi Vogel, one of the people behind the fundraiser, knows how much the disease can affect a family: Her sons have Type I diabetes.

She’s among the group hosting the 20th Annual Fathers of the Year Awards Dinner & Gala on June 13 at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort & Spa, 7000 N. Resort Drive (see If You Go box).

“More than 700 patients in Southern Arizona with Type 1 diabetes are treated annually at Steele Children’s Research Center; it provides the only pediatric clinic in Southern Arizona devoted to the treatment of diabetes and other endocrine disorders and we are really lucky to have it,” said Laura Hopkins, coordinator of annual giving/special events for Steele Center.

The community is equally fortunate to reap benefits from the professional and civic achievements of the 2014 Father of the Year honorees.

“They are role models as parents and also as community volunteers. They are successful in their fields, but they are also committed to making the Tucson community a better place to live,” said Vogel, a member of the Father’s Day Tucson Executive Board and co-chair of the fundraiser with Stephanie Chavez.

Vogel credits these fathers and past honorees with raising more than $3 million in the last two decades and making a tremendous impact on those living with Type 1 diabetes and their families.

She knows: Her sons, Jonathan, 17, and Daniel, 14, both have Type 1 diabetes and receive treatment at Steele Center.

Vogel said she experienced shock and denial when Daniel was hospitalized and diagnosed at age 2, and again three years later when Jonathan was diagnosed.

“When Daniel was diagnosed, I had no idea that there were two kinds of diabetes — I didn’t even know that children and babies could get it. … It is the saddest day of your life when you realize that your child has a disease that has no cure and he will have it for the rest of his life,” she said.

“It is very difficult and painful and sad to hear that, as a parent, and to realize that there is nothing you can do to change it.”

An autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, Type 1 diabetes requires patients to inject insulin or infuse it continually with a pump in order to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia, both of which can lead to unconsciousness, coma and death.

The disease is challenging to manage and over time can result in complications, including vision loss, kidney and nerve damage, and disease to the heart and blood vessels.

“Type 1 diabetes is an invisible disease,” Hopkins said. “The kids who have it look healthy and fine, and many people don’t realize that it is a constant battle 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. These kids have to test their blood sugar 10 times a day and are constantly counting their carbohydrates, and there is never a break.”

Steele Center offers education and information for newly diagnosed patients and their families as well as patient-centered clinical treatment and ongoing support with access to case management, nutritionists, psychologists, therapists and other health care professionals.

Equally essential is the research, which includes clinical trials, the study of new treatments and investigation into the causes of autoimmune disorders as well as the increasing incidence of Type 1 diabetes.

“On average, we have about two or three new cases diagnosed each week at Steele Center,” Hopkins said. “Medical professionals don’t really understand why the rates of autoimmune disease in general are increasing as opposed to decreasing or at least staying the same. That is one reason research is so important.”

Vogel believes the research will result in new insight and hope for the future.

“It is scary to see how prevalent the disease is now, and it is very important that a cure be found,” she said. “But meanwhile, I want to help raise money for the Steele Center so that my boys and their friends and others with this disease have access to state-of-the-art technologies, treatments and therapies that will help them to avoid complications when a cure is found in the future.”

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net