Receiving this message, you are likely aware that the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980 by an amazing lady named Roberta Ruggiero. Roberta went through 10 years of debilitating illness after the birth of her children and despite the cause not being known, was given shock treatments! It wasn’t until a glucose tolerance test revealed the cause of her symptoms severe reactive hypoglycemia – a condition easily corrected with simple diet changes, that she began to recover. Out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the name “Ruggiero,” an Italian surname derived from the Old German words “hrod,” or “renown,” and “ger,” meaning “spear.” “Renown Spear?” That’s interesting because Roberta is just this: she has spearheaded a movement and sounded the alarm for one of the early and alarming signs of metabolic dysfunction – hypoglycemia. She did this years before the medical community had a clue as to what was going on, and, in addition to founding an organization that has reached millions with life-changing information, she wrote the leading book on the subject of Hypoglycemia (5th edition soon to be released September 2017).
When I first became acquainted with Roberta, I was serving as Founding Executive Director for the Institute for Responsible Nutrition (IRN), an organization I founded with Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric neuroendocrinologist who is internationally known for his advocacy efforts fighting the onslaught of metabolic disease that now affects the majority of the global population. Roberta partnered with our team at the IRN to develop a national questionnaire on hypoglycemia – she demonstrated herself as a leading expert and passionate advocate, and also impressed me as one of the kindest and most loving people I have ever met. Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Roberta knows what I am talking about.
Her biggest fan and loving supporter was Anthony (“Tony”) Ruggiero – dedicated and loving husband of 56 years. Tony passed away this last year after a long illness, and understandably, Roberta’s sense of loss has been profound. Still grieving from Tony’s departure, Roberta nonetheless found the energy and inspiration to fly across the country and join us at a national summit on Pediatric Metabolic Health and Nutrition at Seattle Hospital. Her resilience and faith in life are something to behold.
The experience of collaborating with Roberta, along with the many long conversations about the work we both care about so much, ultimately called me to join with the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation and serve as its rst CEO. Frankly, I was at a point in my lifelong career in the social sector where I wondered if I could ‘survive’ another nonprofit. Recently, I ran across this quote from an unknown author that has become a semaphore for guiding my life and career:
This is exactly why I chose to join forces with Roberta and the Hypoglycemia Support Foundation (HSF). There is so much love here. Thanks to Roberta, the HSF is an organization that has a beating heart and vibrant soul – undoubtedly why it has accomplished much with meager resources. Here is just a partial list:
• Published an award-winning book on hypoglycemia with praise from the American Library Association – 5th edition
available late 2017.
• Designed and distributed a wide range of educational materials, including brochures titled “Hypoglycemia & Children: Is Your Child At Risk?” and “Hypoglycemia & Alcoholism: The Missing Link to Recovery.”
• Provided hundreds of educational presentations, support meetings, hosted support meetings and health fairs, and
lectured at schools, hospitals and businesses.
• Conducted surveys examining hypoglycemia and diabetes – and published results, including a collaborative research
project to study link between hypoglycemia and juvenile delinquency.
• Served as champion for over a million patients with misdiagnosed metabolic conditions (e.g., hypoglycemia).
• Garnered extensive earned media and maintained an informative presence on social media, reaching millions online.
• Reached millions, forming a global community via the www.hypoglycemia.org website.
• Served as a pediatric advocate, established the only website dedicated to children suffering from hypoglycemia: www.hypoglycemiaKIDS.org.
• Shared inspiration and expertise with the international movement addressing hypoglycemia.
• Responded to over 100,000 inquiries and emails from every state in the U.S. and countries around the world.
This is a tough act to follow, as they say. However, this is the path I have chosen – taking organizations to the next level. So, with your support, here is what we plan on doing:
• Expand focus on metabolic health and nutrition, with hypoglycemia as a priority.
• Develop revenue-generating educational programs for healthcare providers and their patients from South Florida
to San Francisco, California, to Seattle, Washington, and across the U.S.
• Build a large online presence by offering engaging and impactful educational content.
• Establish a speakers’ bureau.
• Deepen the capacity of the organizational leadership and infrastructure.
• Implement year-round fundraising, fully integrated with programs.
The root causes of metabolic dysfunction are fundamentally the same – poor nutrition. The metabolic system is essentially our cellular engine, making (and destroying) all cells in our body. Hypoglycemia is on a long list of metabolic disorders that have a complex range of causes but are primarily food-related disorders. Hypoglycemia may be considered an early indicator of more advanced disease. The insight highlighted above by Dr. Seale Harris regarding hypoglycemia was prophetic – he understood the importance of viewing symptoms in context – low (and high) blood sugar are indicators that something is out of balance with the metabolic system (disruption in blood sugar metabolism caused primarily by diet).
We envision the HSF retaining and building on its reputation as a leading expert voice and advocate for people suffering from hypoglycemia. However, we acknowledge that hypoglycemia is just one disease that exists within a spectrum of metabolic disorders. In the field of metabolic health, the key players are typically in silos – despite the common denominator of diet and nutrition that underlies all these diseases. Along with Roberta, our committed and growing Board of Directors, Advisors, and key partners, we can forge a unifying voice for a fractured and complex topic. Hypoglycemia is a great place to start the conversation, since so many have experienced blood sugar dysregulation.
Additionally, we are delighted to announce the establishment of the Roberta and Anthony Ruggiero Fund. This long-term
strategy for sustainability – an endowment – ensures that Roberta and Tony’s amazing commitment to the HSF is preserved for perpetuity. As a standard practice from this point forward, the HSF will tithe 10% of all unrestricted gifts to this fund. The principal will never be touched and only a percentage of the interest will be available once the fund grows to an adequate size. Many nonprofits only talk about their long-term well-being. Sustainability is a core principle of how we do business – and a line item in our budget. Roberta’s and Tony’s legacy – and our vision of making the world a healthier place – is too important to leave to the vagaries of nonprofit funding. We hope you will support our eort to immortalize Roberta and Tony’s life-long commitment to helping others defeat life-threatening metabolic disorders like hypoglycemia.
During the time that you took to read this letter, at least five people have died from metabolic disease that could have been prevented through proper nutrition education, and easily implemented lifestyle changes. Please join with me and our 2017 Campaign Chairman, Dale Ledbetter, in helping us reverse an epidemic that is destroying our health and the economy at an alarming pace.