NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coaches, current and former players, sponsors and guest participants struck back at diabetes, a chronic and burgeoning disease with no cure, Thursday night at Coach Mike Munchak's Strikes to Stop Diabetes.
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The inaugural event at Hillwood Strike & Spare raised nearly $70,000 for the American Diabetes Association with a bowling competition that grouped celebrities with teams and included live and silent auctions.
Shot by shot and frame by frame participants took aim at pins with the larger purpose of raising money for a cause that is incredibly important to Munchak. He confronted tough opponents on the football field for 12 years in the NFL, but has been inspired by the conviction that his wife Marci has shown in facing Type 1 diabetes for more than double that amount of time.
"Two of my favorite women in my life — my wife Marci and my mom — have diabetes," Munchak said. "I've seen them fight this on a daily basis. I had an opportunity to put together an event and it was easy for us to decide to bowl with the ADA here in Nashville. They did a great job over at the ADA of putting this together in a really short period of time."
Type 1 diabetes manifests itself when a person's body does not produce insulin that is needed to convert sugars, starches and food into energy. According to the ADA, five percent of all diabetes patients have Type 1 diabetes, which requires insulin injections or use of an insulin pump, close monitoring of blood-sugar levels and a disciplined diet. Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed later in a person's life when the body does not produce enough insulin to turn glucose into energy for cells or the cells ignore the insulin and a build-up of glucose in the blood can cause complications.
Marci Munchak has managed the symptoms of the life-changing disease for 29 years, and Munchak's mother has managed symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. The close personal connection motivated the second-year head coach to develop an event to help diabetic patients like John Mallette.
Mallette, 52, has lived 44 years with Type 1 diabetes. Feeling better from a recent kidney transplant, Mallette and his family signed up for the bowling event. He personally thanked the Munchaks for organizing the event and compared notes with Marci Munchak on how each manages their symptoms.
"(I love) seeing the joy on people's faces and knowing people are enthusiastic and they're getting fired up about helping with the disease and also people living with the disease," Mallette said. "It's very important for folks to feel energized, and seeing this type of charity from the Titans and the American Diabetes Association, it matters more than you can appreciate. It really gives people a boost, a shot in the arm, so to speak.
"It makes all the difference in the world because a lot of times you can get down, but just knowing there are people out there looking for you, pushing you along, makes a difference," Mallette said.
Dr. John Anderson, 2012 President-Elect, Medicine and Science with the American Diabetes Association, bowled in the event and said it provided an important counter against "the fastest growing chronic disease in this country."
There are 25.8 million Americans who have been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and the projections indicate that number will increase without significant action, Anderson said.
"If you look at the Center for Disease Control, any child, if the current trends continue, born after the year 2000, one in three children are going to have diabetes in their lifetime," Anderson said. "If you are a Hispanic female or an African-American female, that's one in two. So if we don't do something to stem the epidemic, it's going to cripple our public health system, it's going to cripple the insurance and third-party payer system, it's going to cripple the industry, and not only that, that doesn't take into account the human toll that this disease has on families with chronic complications."
Diabetes is determined as the number one cause of new blindness, kidney failure and non-traumatic limb amputations in America, Anderson said.
"Everybody knows somebody with diabetes and you see them and think they're doing wonderfully, but what you don't know is it shortens lifespans," Anderson said. "The good thing is we have a message. We're looking to find a cure and we have more development of medications and devices that can help people with diabetes, so you can live well with diabetes, but it's a very serious disease."
Munchak chose a bowling event because it allows participants to be more social than other types of fundraising activities while allowing for friendly competition. He bowled in a league as a youth in Pennsylvania kept his game up during college, but doesn't bowl as much now. He took the team bowling last year during training camp as a team-building activity and will likely do the same this year.
"I was surprised how good some of these guys are," Munchak said. "They brag all year about it. I think this is a warm-up for them, knowing that we'll probably go one more time when we get to camp. Then they can play with the same teams. These guys love to compete. I don't care what you're playing. If you're playing pool, foosball, anything, these guys love competing."
Safety Michael Griffin, who has his own ball, and former Titans center Kevin Mawae each rolled 190 to post the best score by a celebrity, and Griffin edged Mawae in a one-frame bowl-off with a strike, compared to eight pins knocked down by Mawae.
Griffin then challenged Al Trificano, who rolled 255 out of a possible 300 in his opening game and averaged 222 over three games. Trificano manages The Pinnacle Family Entertainment Center in Clarksville and his expertise showed in the showdown.
"I bowl in a league, manage a bowling center, but I don't get to bowl that often. I probably bowl three games a week," said Trificano, who added that it was great to help raise money for diabetes. "We need to commend everybody that showed up."
Munchak thanked participants and sponsors for their help with the event. Sponsors included Pinnacle Financial Partners, LP Building Products, the Jay Cutler Foundation, Dr. Genie Moore, the NFL, Nike, Sunset Grill and Hillwood Strike and Spare.
Voice of the Titans Mike Keith and Nashville Predators play-by-play announcer Pete Weber emceed the event.