As told by Jim Gaydon, Taylor's Father
First of all, for those who don't know, my daughter, Taylor (2), and Miss America (now 24, diagnosed at 19) both have juvenile diabetes. Juvenile diabetes is Nicole Johnson's platform for 1999.
Taylor was diagnosed in June of 98 at 16 months. For the past few months (about the same time Nicole Johnson was crowned) Caron and I have talked about starting for Taylor a scrapbook of positive role models who have diabetes, like her endocrinologist Dr. Joy Atchison, Mary Tyler Moore, Miss America.
Last Tuesday, 12 January, Caron called me at work and told me that Miss America was going to be guest speaker at the Diabetes Health Fair at Eastwood Mall on Saturday from 10-4. Last year the guest speaker was Jerry Mathers (formally known as the Beaver) who was diagnosed, I think, about 10 years ago. The fair was sponsored by NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and the ADA (American Diabetes Association).
I went to calling. I called NBC and the local chapters for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF) and the American Diabetes Association to get any information about getting a photo opportunity with Taylor and Miss America. Caron and I thought it would be a great start for Taylor's scrapbook.
I wasn't able to talk with anyone from the ADA nor NBC that day, but left messages for someone to call me back.
Along with my call to JDF I also called Lisa Manly, who is on the JDF board and usually in the know with anything to do with JDF (Her son, Chapman, is like the poster child for the local chapter. He was diagnosed at 2 and is now 5). Surprisingly, neither Lisa nor JDF had heard anything about the health fair, nor about Miss America's appearance. So I let them in on what I had heard about it and kept them up to date.
The next day, Wednesday, Sandi Lowe called me back. Sandi is the Regional Sales Manager at NBC and was in charge of their co-sponsorship of the fair. I told her of our idea about the scrapbook and the photo op we were wanting with Miss America. She tried so hard to find a time and place for the photo-op that was convenient for both us and Nicole Johnson. Sandi asked me if I could bring Taylor down to the station on Thursday morning just before the midday newscast, which was when Nicole Johnson was going to be interviewed. She also told me about the big reception they were having for Miss America from 6-8pm Friday night. When I told her that neither of those times were good for me, she thought some more. She then proceeded to tell me Nicole Johnson's ENTIRE itinerary. When she was flying in, when she was eating dinner, when she was going to bed, when she was getting up, when she was eating breakfast, when she was doing her five radio interviews, when she was eating lunch, her plans for Friday afternoon, her reception Friday night, her plans for Saturday morning. Sandi told me everything except when Miss Johnson had her bathroom breaks (but if it would have helped, I'm sure she would've told me). To no avail, it looked like I was going to have to wait 'til Saturday.
I also talked to the local ADA chapter on Wednesday. But they weren't much help. They basically said that the only chance of a photo-op was to get in line for one of the autographed pictures that she was going to hand out after her speech and ask her to cheese when we got up to the front of the line.
Caron, on the other hand, took a different route. She called the mall and was able to get in touch with the person in charge of the fair, Trish Higgins. Caron told her that she was on bedrest due to pre-term labor and that her doctor told her that she could go to the health fair, but only if she was in a wheelchair. Caron also explained to Trish about the limited time we had so that Caron could get back home and on the couch. She also explained to her about our daughter and our idea for a scrapbook of role models with diabetes.
Well, Trish absolutely went NUTS. She loved the idea. Needless to say, word spread far. Word spread fast. Within a few hours, we had a scheduled interview with NBC anchor Emily Stroud Saturday morning, a photo-op with Miss America where she was going to present Taylor with an autographed picture, and a wheelchair for Caron to use while we were at the fair, a local diabetic supply company was going to present us with a free diabetes kit. We were told it would be a pouch to carry our supplies, or something like that. All of this was to be behind closed doors, out of the public traffic.
I called JDF and told Regina Carroll (administrative assistant) and Tracy James (fundraising manager) what was going to happen. They were real excited and wanted to give Taylor a Rufy doll. Rufy is the female version of Rufus, a diabetic bear who wears a medic alert bracelet, and has colored patches on his belly, arms, legs, and hands where he gets his shots and checks his blood sugar.
I called Sandi at NBC and told her what was going to happen. Since the news people and the sales people aren't allowed to talk to each other due to possible influencing, she hadn't heard about the interview.
Since JDF was not invited to the fair, Sandi wanted me to give her phone number to JDF so she could talk with Tracy about sharing the NBC table/booth with them and for them to bring pamphlets, handouts, pins, and Rufus/Rufy dolls, or phone numbers where to get one, with them. Sandi assured me that she didn't have the slightest idea why JDF was not invited and that JDF will not be left out again.
Now it's Saturday. Caron, Taylor, and I arrive at Eastwood Mall at 10 and meet up with Linda Millwood and Darlene Robertson, Caron's mother and sister. We were soon greeted by people we had never met. When we walked up, some came up to us and said "You must be Caron and this must me Taylor. We've been expecting you." I asked her who all was expecting us and she replied "Well, everyone. You are our guests." With that, she asked us to wear Diabetes Health Fair nametags so everyone will know who we are.
For the next 45 minutes we met Trish and the people manning the Health Fair Management booth (Mike, Kim, and Kelly; Kelly is also diabetic), Eddie Stovall from Messco Medical (who loaned us the wheelchair), Linda Baker from Health Care Management who presented us with a diabetic Healthy Care Kids Kit from United Health Care (including an Accu-check glucometer, video, book, 5-day supply of test strips, and an educational CD-ROM), Sandi from NBC, Tracy from the local JDF chapter, Carol Ackley (wife of Camp Seale Harris director, Terry Ackley), and Lisa and Chapman Manly. A picture of Taylor and Chapman was taken of them together and may be used on the cover of one of the Camp Seale Harris pamphlets.
At 10:45, NBC anchor Emily Stroud came up and met us and began the interview with Caron while Taylor was sitting in her lap. About 10-15 minutes into the interview, Nicole Johnson walked up and knelled down beside Caron and introduced herself to her and Taylor. A few minutes later she turned around to someone behind her who then gave her a small brown box. Miss America opened the box in front of Caron and Taylor and pulled out THE crown, THE tiara that has been passed down since the first Miss America. She tried several times to place it on Taylor's head, but Taylor just didn't want to wear anything on her head at the time. After Nicole Johnson walked back upstairs behind closed doors, people kept coming up to Caron wanting to meet her and shake her hand. They didn't know who she was but figured she was somebody famous since she was being interviewed by Emily Stroud and talking to Miss America. We thought is it was pretty funny and got a big kick out of it.
For the next 45 minutes, we stood/sat by the Health Fair Management booth talking to and meeting other diabetics, parents of diabetic children, reps from other organizations with booths at the fair. During this time Linda and Darlene were extremely helpful in appeasing Taylor's need to cut loose and run wildly about the mall, laughing and giggling and screaming with joy.
About 12 noon, we were told that Miss America was going to come by the booth before she speaks to present Taylor with an autographed picture for her scrapbook and a Rufy doll. While waiting for Miss America, the Birmingham News showed up and asked Caron a few questions and said they were going to take a few pictures of Miss America with Taylor for the paper.
When Nicole Johnson walked up she greeted Caron and Taylor again, showed Taylor her medic alert bracelet, and attempted to crown Taylor again. This time she succeeded! And the Birmingham News got a picture of it! It was in the Sunday paper (17 January 99) on page 21A.
While we were with Miss America, Trish was speaking to the audience, telling them that Miss America was being a little delayed because she was at the booth presenting a Rufy doll and autographed picture to Taylor Gaydon, who is a 23-month-old with juvenile diabetes, and proceeded to tell Taylor's story.
It's pretty exhilarating being the father a local celebrity! We were also told that Taylor's story would be in a new diabetic magazine (by Oxford House?) coming out in the Spring or Summer of this year.
So stayed tuned to my "continuously under construction" website so you can see some pretty awesome pictures!
Jim receives e-mail at [email protected]
Taylor meets Miss America
Taylor wears the Crown
Published March 25, 1999
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