For Sacred Heart University Fraternity, Diabetes Awareness Becomes a Cause

News Story: February 28, 2007

Matthew Tarro was a 16-year-old high school student when he suddenly lost 15 pounds in one week, developed an unquenchable thirst and began falling asleep in classes.

His parents, both medical professionals, immediately sent him for testing which confirmed what they suspected. Tarro was diagnosed with Type I or juvenile diabetes, an incurable disease with no known cause that requires daily monitoring of blood sugar levels, dietary restrictions and injections of insulin.

Today, the 20-year-old Sacred Heart University junior communications and technology major from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, lives an active, normal life and serves as an advocate for diabetes education and research. Just about the time he was diagnosed, members of the Sacred Heart University fraternity Alpha Sigma Psi, of which Tarro is now president, got involved with the American Diabetes Association Walk in Fairfield.

“We go over on Thursday night before the Sunday Walk and load up a truck with all the supplies, we set up tables near the pavilion at Fairfield Beach, work at the registration table, basically anything they need to have done,” Tarro said.

Diane Creed, director of the Fairfield County ADA, visited campus on January 16 to present the fraternity with a certificate of appreciation.

“What wonderful hearts these students have. They are a credit to, not only Sacred Heart University, they truly are a credit to their parents. These students came in and were our legs and arms and did everything logistically possible. You never see a grimace. They just do and do, and they do the job right,” Creed said.

The SHU students help generate awareness of the disease that is escalating in the U.S. population at an alarming rate, Creed said. “We diagnosed 1.8 million people in 2005. That’s very scary,” said Creed, especially since Type II, or adult onset diabetes, which is linked to lifestyle and eating habits, once only affected older people. “Now children as young as 9- and 11-year-olds are being diagnosed on a regular basis with Type II diabetes,” she said.

Almost 21 million Americans have diabetes: about 6 million don’t even know they have it, Creed said.

Although the fraternity’s primary service goal is to improve domestic conditions and reduce incidents of child abuse in Bridgeport, the brothers willingly took on the second cause.

“It really is rewarding. It helps the fraternity create awareness throughout the school and the community and it’s a good bonding experience through community service,” said Frankie Pistecchia, a senior from Eastchester, New York, with a double major in business management and finance. Pistecchia, the fraternity’s immediate past president, said they adopted the ADA because of four members that are diabetic, three of whom have since graduated, all of whom are an inspiration.

“It’s hard but I live with it,” said Tarro, who serves as director at a summer camp in Rhode Island for diabetic children. “You don’t get an appreciation for your own life until you see a six-year-olds give themselves a shot of insulin. It put things in perspective for me,” he said.

Creed said the Fairfield Chapter of the ADA is looking for volunteers to serve on the project planning committee for the next Walk on October 14 at Penfield Pavilion in Fairfield. For details contact Creed at 264-1920.