Student's jewelry raises funds to battle diabetes

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When Rachel Tobin wasn't in the diabetes research lab for her college internship this summer, she was designing a new bracelet for her nonprofit, Rachel's Cure by Design. The newest in a line of more than 150 styles of handmade jewelry, the Imagine bracelet pays homage to JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

"The Imagine bracelet was created with the foundation in mind, based on the colors in its logo," said Leigh Hopkins, vice president of advocacy for the Western Pennsylvania chapter of JDRF.

Founded by Ms. Tobin, 20, the nonprofit donates 41 percent of each sale of the jewelry to the Western Pennsylvania chapter of JDRF to support diabetes research. To date, it has donated $55,000.

The Imagine bracelets are made with indigo and light blue glass and silver beads. They also include signature "hope" and "made with love" charms.

Ms. Tobin, a native of Churchill, began designing and selling the bracelets to support diabetes research at age 12 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Now a junior biology/pre-med major at Emory University in Atlanta, she has a goal to raise $100,000 for JDRF.

"I have kept my momentum going because I am very dedicated to raising money for diabetes research, as well as spreading diabetes awareness. I am very determined to reach this goal very soon," said Ms. Tobin.

While she is at school, her mom, Linda Tobin, and business partner, Margie Dubner, handle the nonprofit business full time. Beads and stones are purchased at national trade shows, and Ms. Tobin designs the jewelry.

"I definitely think that my designs have changed as I have grown because my style has matured, and I am now more knowledgeable about different beads and stones, allowing me to use a greater variety in my designs," said Ms. Tobin, who has returned to school.

Each year, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which prevents the body from producing insulin, the hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.

"Every person connected to type 1 diabetes knows how grueling and challenging the disease is. That's why we all need to see the word, 'hope,' " said Ms. Hopkins, whose son, Dan, 17, was diagnosed at age 10.

"There are so many great advocates in the diabetes community that are exploring new treatment options and research -- as well as those who are finding ways to raise funds," said Ms. Tobin. "JDRF advances research and promotes education and awareness not only to imagine a cure, but also to deploy resources to get us closer to it."

Ms. Tobin's jewelry is sold at boutiques throughout the region, including Bridal Beginnings in Mt. Lebanon and Rose Style Shoppe in Latrobe. It is available online at

Ms. Tobin has also created customized designs to benefit other organizations. An additional $10 from each of those sales benefits the groups' causes. Other nonprofit partners include Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh and the Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services.

"It is really quite wonderful how a young girl took what was a tough diagnosis and turned it into something that has grown to be an amazing way to help herself and others," said Ms. Hopkins.


Laurie Bailey, freelance writer:


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