Our Story

Our Story


Diabetes Hope Foundation grew out of a commitment to provide hope and support to youth living with type 1 diabetes and their families, founded by Barbara Pasternak, who shares her story below.

My own story is similar to that of many families whose lives have been touched by diabetes. Before diabetes moved into my family’s home and our lives, we were an everyday, run of the mill hockey family. In 1994 we were knocked off course by an unrelenting, silent foe – type 1 diabetes. My husband, Joe, and I were blindsided when our two youngest sons were both diagnosed with diabetes within three years of each other. We knew nothing about the disease other than that our lives were about to change dramatically. Our heads were spinning as we realized we had a new, uninvited houseguest who would never leave.

Our Story, DHF story, Diabetes Hope Foundation
Our Story


Once we stopped trying to understand ‘why did this happen to us?’, Joe and I made the decision to make sure that, no matter what, we would let our kids be kids. We wanted them to know that they could not only live with diabetes, but thrive with it and could grow up to be healthy and strong and to become whoever it was they wanted to be. This journey was not one that we could do on our own, and I realized early on that while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village plus a team of dedicated health care professionals to raise a child living with a chronic illness. It was through this team that I found out about diabetes camps, magical places for kids living with diabetes to feel normal.

After both my boys attended camp, I knew I had found my life’s calling – I wanted to help my children and other children and their families, cope with living with diabetes. This work started 27 years ago when Joe and I recruited our dear friends and business associates and held our first golf tournament to raise funds to support the camp our sons attended. In the first two years we raised enough money to build a new dock and in the subsequent 10 years, we helped build the nurses and doctors cabins, and assisted rebuilding the infirmary. During this time, one of my friends said that we were giving hope to so many kids. And it stuck with me.


As my kids grew up, diabetes was with us through each stage of life, and I saw first hand how important the stage of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood was for them. Through research and conversation with clinics across Canada, I recognized how important successful transition is, because it helps ensure continued management to prevent complications from happening. 25 years ago, there wasn’t much support available for young adults as they left the holistic care of the pediatric health care system, but more importantly, there was no recognition available for these kids for their hard work and the vigilance that they had to have to be healthy with diabetes.

And so the Diabetes Hope Foundation was launched as a call to arms. I started the hard work of reaching out to donors through my networks and across the diabetes community to bring people together to celebrate these amazing students through scholarships. The Scholarship Program was designed to not only provide much needed financial support to students as they start post-secondary school, but it was also the perfect opportunity to motivate, applaud and reward the hard work it takes for our youth to stay healthy.

Our Story, Diabetes Hope Foundation Story, DHF Story
Our Story, Diabetes Hope Foundation Story, DHF Story


Today, while technological advancements have made diabetes management easier, the mental toll of living with a chronic illness persists. Recognizing this, Diabetes Hope Foundation has worked over the last ten years to broaden our impact by designing resources and programming to support the mental health of youth living with diabetes. Powered by our alumni community, who I am forever thankful to for their commitment to paying it forward, we have developed our HOPE Connects peer mentorship program and our Transition Webinars in response to the effects of Covid-19. These programs provide youth across the country with valuable information and support to help them navigate their transitions and build a strong foundation for living a happy and healthy tomorrow.
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As we look to the future, we are excited about the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead, and we are confident that, with the continued support of the broader diabetes community, we can make an even greater impact on the lives of those affected by type 1 diabetes.

The one thing that I always wanted my kids to believe was that just because they had diabetes, it shouldn’t hold them back from anything. I’m very proud of my kids for achieving so much in their personal and professional lives, and I am excited to give that same hope to youth living with diabetes across Canada.

Our Story, Diabetes Hope Foundation Story, DHF Story

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