New York, NY (August 11, 2008) — Hicksville’s Grace Checchia, a third grader at Dutch Lane Elementary, had the opportunity to meet her idol, pop star Nick Jonas, at the Jonas Brothers concert held at Madison Square Garden on August 11. The unlikely pair bonded immediately through a shared connection of type 1 diabetes.
While Grace waited in line backstage with her mother, Rene’, and 15-year-old sister, Courtney, the pop stars’ father, Kevin Jonas, Sr., noticed she was wearing an OmniPod, an insulin management system, and he suggested that she show it to Nick. When she did, Nick autographed it and then raised his shirt to expose his own OmniPod. He leaned down to talk with Grace about life with diabetes, and after a few moments, the 15-year-old celebrity asked the little girl for a hug.
“This is the best day of my life since I found out I have diabetes,” squealed Grace, who was diagnosed with the disease in the summer of 2007 – a few months after Nick first announced publicly that he has diabetes at a Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) fundraiser, Carnival for a Cure, in New York City.
In an ironic twist, Rene’ has been a volunteer for the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation for the past decade, helping to raise funds for the cure-focused research at the DRI in Miami. Little did she know back then how personal her connection to the DRI would become.
“You never know what kind of curveballs life will throw you,” Rene’ said. “Ten years ago I chose to support the DRI for no reason at all…And now it is the cause closest to my heart.”
The Checchia family would have been at the Carnival for a Cure event last spring, but Grace had not yet been diagnosed. Instead, Grace repeatedly watched a video of Nick’s announcement on YouTube.com. She continues to be inspired by his message: Diabetes can’t stop me.
Grace’s encounter with her hero didn’t end at the concert. The next day, Grace was joined by Rene’, Courtney, and her oldest sister, Erica, at MTV’s Times Square Studios for the live taping of the Jonas Brothers’ TRL appearance, a part of Jonas Brothers Fan Week. In the small studio, 7-year-old Grace was seated at the side of the stage. She was thrilled when Joe Jonas noticed her, tapped Nick on the shoulder, and pointed to her. Nick waved at Grace, sending a huge smile and a thumbs-up sign her way.
Now Rene’ is even more involved with the DRI Foundation. She is co-chairing a fun, family event called Kids Party for a Cure, to be held October 19 at Dave and Buster’s in Westbury, NY. Grace hopes that her new friends, the Jonas Brothers, will join her there and perform her favorite song, A Little Bit Longer, in which Nick says he will take care of his diabetes until a cure is found.
Whenever she hears this song, which is pretty often in a household full of Jonas Brothers fans, Rene’ responds with conviction, “I know that when a cure is found, it is going to come from the DRI.”