Question: What the heck is a “Cure Mitten”?
Answer: A crazy-colored hand covering that not only keeps cold fingers warm, but also helps raise money for type 1 diabetes and promote public awareness around this chronic condition.
Yep, a Minnesota family is using their crafty knitting skills to make mittens for T1D –- which is oh-so-fitting, given that this chronic condition is so synonymous with finger-poking for glucose checks!
The Mickschl Family in the St. Paul, MN, area, whose preteen daughter Gracie has T1D, launched the Cure Mittens line of hand-wear a year ago in October, just before Diabetes Awareness Month 2018.
“Our goal is about making tomorrow better. Not just for Gracie, but for everyone around the globe diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” says D-Dad Doug Mickschl. “Nothing can create a fire in someone like when your child is diagnosed with what is now an incurable disease. We got creative.”
As the Fall season brings that annual transition to sweater weather, we’re excited to feature the Mickschl’s Cure Mittens. — which really are designed for any season, but best in colder chilly-fingers weather!
First, the why.
It all started in March 2016, when Doug and Leah Mickschl’s daughter Gracie was diagnosed with T1D at 10 years old. The family had been on Spring Break vacation, despite the fact that Gracie had been losing weight in the weeks prior. At first, they thought it might be just “a bug” or dehydration.
But as time went on during their Florida vacation and Gracie continued losing weight, Leah began worrying something more might be wrong — especially given her professional background as a pediatric nurse (who specialized in child abuse). She had left that role some time ago to start her own online retail boutique selling scarfs and jewelry, but her health know-how began to re-surface as she witnessed her daughter’s symptoms materializing — excessive thirst and hunger, bathroom use, and so on.
“Pounds were just falling off of her before our eyes,” Leah recalls. “I was kind of thinking, ‘No, please, don’t let it be…’ We got home from break on Easter Sunday and she had a stomachache, and I could smell that fruity breath when she was sitting on my lap. I remember saying that night that she has type 1 diabetes. But even as an educated nurse, I didn’t really know how bad this was… our new normal.”
That was a few months before Gracie’s 11th birthday. Leah says her dad’s cousin was the only family connection with T1D, but that’s a removed relationship so it wasn’t something that initially came to mind.
Doug — an advertising professional who had no healthcare background or the least familiarity with diabetes — was pretty much dumbstruck, he says. ” I remember Leah trying to explain it to me, and I just had no clue what we were in for. I was sort of apathetic about the whole deal at first, and had total cluelessness. That, to me personally, is why it’s so important to get awareness out there.”
Gracie is now 14 and handling her T1D as best a teenager can, but as anyone who’s been there knows, it isn’t easy. Her dad says, “I almost feel claustrophobic for her sometimes… it’s like this ball-and-chain, for the rest of her life. She’s such a strong young lady and it doesn’t seem to phase her; it phases us more at times. She’s such a champ and is such an inspiration for all of us.”
Like many families before them, the Mickschl’s journey from an initial sense of helplessness to conquering “routine” daily management led them to want to pursue something that would make a broader difference in the T1D community.
But you may still be wondering, why mittens?
Back in 2014, while recovering from a bilateral mastectomy for breast cancer, Leah had started her online Pretty Simple retail store selling scarfs, beanies and other items. That was two years before Gracie’s T1D diagnosis.
Once diabetes entered their world, her crafty retail boutique experience combined with Doug’s professional advertising and marketing skills came together. They decided to create a product line that could be used to start a conversation about T1D in the world, while also raising money for different charities benefiting the diabetes community.
The mitten idea came from an observation in those early years that Gracie’s fingertips were often calloused and raw due to blood sugar fingersticks. Doug says that led to them wanting to give her fingers “a little love,” and the mittens were a pretty simple product choice from there. They decided on crazy colors because T1D is “a crazy disease, it’s unpredictable and sometimes you just can’t put a finger on it… no pun intended.”
“We want them to stand out,” he says. “We want people to say, ‘Where did you get those crazy-colored mittens?’ and start a conversation about type 1.”
They launched Cure Mittens in October 2018 just before the kickoff of National Diabetes Awareness Month kicked in November, as the first (and so far) philanthropic line from their boutique Pretty Simple.
All of the mittens come packaged in a reusable circular canister, with the word “Cure” written in cursive on the side and a coin slot on top. Doug and Leah say the coin-bank canister idea came from their desire to create “a culture of giving,” so that people who ordered the mittens would be motivated to continue giving to worthy causes – diabetes-related or not.
“So many people need help out there, and we thought this would be a nice gesture, a helping hand if you will, along with being a good way to package the mittens,” Doug says. “And to be honest, (the canisters) are a pretty cool and practical design, so let’s make it useful!”
The mittens are hand-made from high-quality yarn, and they work with two China-based manufacturers — one to hand-knit the mittens and one to produce the canisters. At launch, they started with five designs / color combos and now they have six. They’re exploring other designs that hope will eventually include sports team colors — such as the Green Bay Packers or Minnesota Twins. They have toddler, youth, and teen/adult sizes that all retail for $30 per pair.
To date, they’ve raised more than $10,000 that has gone to various charities: the JDRF Minnesota chapter focused on cure research and improving D-lives; T1international that focuses on insulin affordability and access; and Minnesota-based Can Do Canines that supports diabetes alert dog training. (Gracie loves dogs and while she doesn’t currently have a D-Alert Dog, the parents say they’re considering it).
The family hopes to double that amount raised in this next year.
Overall, the couple says they want to make a difference and raise awareness in the T1D community — all while offering a bit of fun and practical hand-wear that does good in the world.
Doug adds, “I’m a pretty competitive guy, and from a Dad’s POV, I want to kick this disease’s a**. I haven’t let my anger and frustration out on this disease like I’d want to. Like Leah says, this helps us put our passion to use in a good way, out of desperation for change and a cure, and a better life.”
We LOVE these Cure Mittens, and are eager to get a pair for ourselves!