Robyn Pilliod and Blanche Touhill

Photo by Sarah Crowder

With 8 percent of the U. S. population living with diabetes, a main focus of the American Diabetes Association is to heighten the nation’s sense of urgency for the growing epidemic. Locally, about 291,000 adults (or 9 percent of those 20 and older) have diabetes, while 3,000 youth have the disease, which has become the seventh-leading cause of death in the country.

And executive director Robyn Pilliod notes that while the disease’s prevalence continues to rise, many diabetes misconceptions still exist. To combat this, the local American Diabetes Association (ADA) is encouraging residents to join a movement to stop the disease. “We are seeking innovative, cost-effective ways to expand the reach of the Stop Diabetes Movement and conduct outcomes-based research to improve programs and increase local and national impact,” Pilliod says.

To further promote awareness of the disease and raise funds for research, the local chapter will host its annual dinner gala, themed A Night in Morocco, on April 12 at Peabody Opera House. The rich culture of Morocco will take center-stage, with cocktails and a silent auction and casino beginning at 6 p.m., a Moroccan dinner at 7:30 p.m. and a live auction at 8:30 p.m. Entertainment also will feature a sampling of Moroccan traditions, including a spice market, a snake charmer and dancers—plus a few surprises, Pilliod adds.

Serving as honorary chair of this year’s event is Blanche Touhill. With education a local and national ADA priority, Pilliod says Touhill was a natural for the role. “As former chancellor of UMSL, Blanche is education. She believes UMSL to be a ‘university of research, teaching and service. The 2014 organizational priorities for ADA include the same tone for the future. With more than 11 percent of people older than 20 living with diabetes, the ADA education effort has been placed front and center of our strategic goals."

The gala generated $450,000 last year, and Pilliod has raised the stakes for this spring’s event to a goal of $500,000. Proceeds directly benefit the association’s education programming and Camp EDI held at Blue Mountain Camp in Fredericktown, Mo., running June 7 to 14 for diabetic patients ages 9 to 17. In 2013, the association awarded more than $450,000 in camper scholarships, hosted 6,500 kids at diabetes summer camps, distributed 12,000 Wisdom Kits to newly diagnosed families, and supported more than 600,000 individuals online to understand their Type 2 diabetes risk.

ON THE COVER: A Night in Morocco will take the Peabody Opera House stage April 12 to benefit the American Diabetes Association, which works to prevent and cure diabetes. Pictured on the cover: Will Timmons, Chloe Schaefer, Katie Crowder, Blanche Touhill. For more information, call 822-5490 or 888-342-2383, or visit

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