Dynamic Duo - Positive Energy for Diabetes Research
By Gabrielle Fimbres
Photo: Laura and Lee Shaw
Photo by: BalfourWalker.com
As they motored through Texas on a family trip a dozen years ago, Lee and Laura Shaw realized something was terribly wrong with their 22-month-old daughter, Olivia.
The usually joyful toddler was crying miserably, and her eyes would glaze over.
A trip to urgent care followed by five days in intensive care brought the diagnosis – type 1 diabetes.
“Her blood sugar was through the roof and we didn’t know it,” Lee said.
“She was close to a coma,” added Laura.
The Shaws knew their lives had changed forever.
Inspired by Olivia, the couple is dedicated to helping other families cope with type 1 diabetes.
Lee is chairman of Father’s Day Council Tucson, which raises funds for type 1 diabetes education and research through Steele Children’s Research Center at the University of Arizona.
Both were involved with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, with the family raising more than $38,000 through the annual walk.
Lee, an architect and partner at Ansaldi Shaw Design, and Laura, senior VP for marketing and communications at Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities – or TREO – are committed to making Tucson a better place to live.
In addition to raising funds for type 1 diabetes education and research, Lee is Cub Scout den leader for 9-year-old son Will’s troop and the infamous Popcorn Kernel, overseeing fundraising efforts.
Laura is a board member for Catalina Foothills School District Foundation, supporting the district her children attend. She serves as a member of the Carondelet Health Network Strategic Planning Committee and the Barber Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding. She is a governing board member and graduate of Greater Tucson Leadership and was recognized as one of 11 “Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things” by UA’s Eller College of Management.
The Shaws fill any room they’re in with their smiles and spirit. “Laura and I spread positive energy wherever we go,” Lee said. “I look at everyone as my friend and that’s how our children are.”
Close to their hearts is the work they do regarding type 1 diabetes.
“The big drive is to find a cure, but I don’t even think about a cure, to tell you the truth,” Lee said. “I think about the families who have just been diagnosed and how we can help them.”
Dr. Fayez Ghishan, head of the UA Department of Pediatrics, said the Shaws are improving life for people with type 1 diabetes.
“Lee and Laura Shaw are examples of parents who were devastated by the news that their daughter Olivia had type 1 diabetes – but they turned it around and decided to make it an opportunity to give back,” Ghishan said.
“They are working to make the lives of other children with diabetes better by making our Angel Wing Clinic an even friendlier and more effective place for kids to be treated – and by helping raise funds for research into type 1 diabetes causes and a cure,” Ghishan added.
Paul Bonavia, chairman and CEO of Tucson Electric Power and UNS Energy Corp., said he is “knocked out by the Shaws.
“If you want to get something done in Tucson, you go to Laura,” he said. “And I have been impressed with Lee in his work with Father’s Day Council. I love people that lead through dedication and perseverance.”
The Shaws were raised in Dallas, and met at a birthday party at Lee’s New York City loft, where Laura was visiting a friend. They fell in love and married in 1992.
They moved to Albuquerque and relocated to Tucson 12 years ago.
“We fell in love with Tucson,” Lee said. “I feel like I’m on vacation all the time. I love the outdoor way of life.” “The flip-flop lifestyle,” as Laura calls it.
The Shaws built their family here, and put their energy into making their schools and community the best it can be.
“The schools are awesome,” Lee said. “It’s a great environment to raise a family.”
Said Laura, “Everywhere I go, I run into someone I know and I love it. I love the work I do at TREO trying to make Tucson a better place for future generations.”
The couple radiates a positive attitude, despite serious medical challenges. Lee was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and successfully underwent a difficult surgery.
In 2005, Laura was showing one of Olivia’s teachers how to test blood, using her own. She found she had also developed type 1 diabetes.
Once Olivia got the news, she said to her mom, “You’re my soul sister.”
Olivia has grown into a beautiful 14-year-old, ready to tackle high school and the world. She loves volleyball, writing and poetry, and looks just like her mom.
“We are very close,” Laura said. “We understand each other.”
The Shaws say diabetes does not define Olivia.
“From the beginning, we didn’t believe she was a diabetic,” Laura said. “She was a child with diabetes.”
The Shaws work towards making managing the disease easier.
“You never get a break from diabetes, ever,” Lee said. “I know what we are doing is important because diabetes is on the rise and to help people and families with the disease, that’s why I am here.”