Pixar Sneak Peek Scares Up Funds for T1D Research

JDRF Pixar Gala

On June 15, 2013, the JDRF Greater Bay Area Chapter held one entertaining Gala—an exclusive preview of Disney•Pixar’s Monsters University, the highly anticipated prequel to Monsters, Inc. By all accounts, the Gala was a monstrous success, largely due to the evening’s honorary chairs—longstanding JDRF supporters John and Nancy Lasseter.

The Lasseters became a part of the JDRF family after their son, Sam, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) more than 10 years ago. As chief creative officer of Pixar Animation Studios, John dreamed up this very unique celebration—for the seventh time, he reserved the special honor of screening the newest Pixar movie for a JDRF benefit to raise funds for T1D research.

Back to school in June

The event took place on the Pixar Animation Studios campus in Emeryville, CA, which was transformed into Monsters University for the evening. Student clubs competed for new members with information booths and posted flyers. Guests enjoyed monster- and college-themed food, including mini pizza slices with mini microbrews, macaroni and fleas bites, and MU BLTs. “Students” were able to tour studio facilities in the Steve Jobs Building—which doubled as a misfit fraternity—and view the work that goes into the creation of an animated classic.

Though university-themed, the Gala welcomed students of all ages. Lisa Fischer-Colbrie, a Chapter volunteer whose husband Mark is a member of the JDRF International Board of Directors, said, “If there’s a Pixar event, we’re here. Our whole family is with us.” This included daughter, Megan, and sons Matt and Tyler. Tyler, who has T1D, co-chairs the chapter’s Young Leadership Committee.

No spoilers ahead

School spirit was drummed up by the University of California’s renowned marching band and cheerleaders, who greeted guests as they arrived and escorted them to screenings of the film. Gala Chair Nancy Riley, whose 19-year-old son has T1D, drew a parallel between the movie’s theme and the JDRF family’s quest for a cure for T1D. “As Mike and Sulley discover in Monsters University, a challenging journey is always easier with friends.”

In her welcoming remarks at dinner, Nancy Lasseter referred to guests as “JDRF alumni” and the event itself as a “homecoming.” Her husband, John, observed that the 375-strong crowd had “the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the advancement of diabetes research.” Both the silent and live auctions offered spectacular prizes through the generosity of sponsors, including Monsters University collectibles, distinctive trips, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The energetic and engaging Olympian and cookbook author Brian Boitano acted as master of ceremonies.

College-bound athletes, Gala all-stars

Enthusiasm for the evening was high, and the Gala raised more than $1.65 million for T1D research. The Fund-A-Cure challenge alone raised $810,000 and featured the Peterson family of Los Gatos, CA. Twin 19-year-old brothers and baseball phenoms Eric and Kort Peterson both live with T1D. The family shared the moving story of Eric’s diagnosis with T1D at age three, followed within a year by a diagnosis of leukemia. As his parents fought to manage Eric’s T1D through chemotherapy, his mom, Karen Peterson, discovered she had a rare form of cancer. Karen lost her battle with cancer, but throughout her illness, her husband, Jeff, says, “She was more focused on Eric than herself, which was amazing.”

At the age of 14, Kort was also diagnosed with T1D. Eric helped his twin learn to balance his T1D care with a demanding athletic schedule. Both boys continued to excel at baseball, as they had since they were toddlers. This fall, Eric will attend University of California, Berkeley, as a recruited walk-on to the baseball team, and Kort will enter University of California, Los Angeles, on a baseball scholarship. They will live apart for the first time, but will continue to support each other from a distance, as will their father Jeff, stepmother Julee, and sister Bryn. Of the separation, dad Jeff says, “The comfort for me is in knowing JDRF is continuing to look for the best—the best doctors, the best research.” Julee adds, “We can just live life because JDRF is fighting the big fight.”

To hear more about the Peterson family’s story, watch their Fund A Cure video.