Stackhouse's Triple Threat

When he's on the basketball court, Washington Wizards forward Jerry Stackhouse's favorite position to be in is one where he can catch the ball and either shoot, dribble or pass; aka - the triple threat position. Off the court, Stackhouse participates in another kind of triple threat, one where he can help spread diabetes awareness from home, work and in the community.

Stackhouse's foundation, the Triple Threat Fund, was developed to help streamline all of his charitable efforts which include the fight against diabetes, a disease that has played a significant role in his life.

"People know and have heard of diabetes, but they just don’t know how big a killer it is because it’s the type of disease that sneaks up on people," Stackhouse said. "That’s where my efforts are. Hopefully we can promote awareness through public service announcements and clinics and things to help not just African-Americans but also Hispanics, Native Americans and even Caucasians become aware of diabetes."

Stackhouse decided to pursue a fight against the disease known as the "silent killer" after two of his sisters died in their early 40's from complications brought on by diabetes. Both his parents, who are in their early 60's, later tested positive for the disease. Stackhouse explained that although he's a professional athlete who keeps his body in top condition, genetically he is susceptible to diabetes, and that's why he is working hard to fight it.

"I guess it would be safe to say that I am not out of the woods as far as it goes either," Stackhouse said. "With the tragedy in my family I had a chance to do something, and that’s why I chose diabetes as one of my main focuses of community work."

According to research done through the American Diabetes Association, ethnic groups such as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans and Native-Americans living in the United States are far more likely to develop diabetes then Caucasian Americans.

Ethnic groups are also hit harder by complications from diabetes with the death rate in African-Americans with diabetes being 27 percent higher compared to Caucasians, and Latino-Americans and Native Americans with diabetes six times as likely to suffer from kidney failure than Caucasians.

While he has held fundraisers for diabetic causes for years, Stackhouse's mission through the Triple Threat Fund is to ensure that funds are available for continued research, care and clinics as well as education and awareness programs related to diabetes, especially among minorities.

Stackhouse is a triple threat on and off the court.
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Photos
Just two weeks after his trade to the Wizards from the Detroit Pistons, Stackhouse addressed the Congressional Diabetes Caucus on Capitol Hill about more funding for the education, prevention and treatment of diabetes among minorities. He explained that legislatures have not done enough towards the funding and research towards minorities regarding the disease.

"There are people walking around with this disease, totally unaware of the symptoms of diabetes because they don’t know what the symptoms are, especially in minority communities," said Stackhouse.

During that session, new legislation that focused on diabetes among minorities was introduced, which Stackhouse said was the first positive step in a lengthy process.

"We're going to make a trip back in the spring, but as you know with bills getting passed it’s a lengthy process," Stackhouse said. "I think that by bringing some kind of celebrity status to [the need for more research and funding], it kind of gave it a little more attention then some issues that might have been brushed under the table."

Still, Stackhouse explained that arriving in Washington made for perfect timing as he planned to address Congress on the subject at some point in his professional career.

"It was an exciting time," Stackhouse said. "I had planned on my agenda [to go before Congress] to make that speech before I knew I was even coming here to come to D.C. But I think the excitement and the fanfare of me coming to the city to play for the Wizards coinciding with the speech was perfect timing."

While congress is working on ways to help fund programs to educate minorities on the disease, Stackhouse has begun initiatives to help young people and their families get more active and live healthier lifestyles.

Healthy Living Initiative is an national program that Stackhouse is developing aimed at shedding light on the issues of obesity, lack of exercise and it's affects on kids developing diabetes. The program will focus on providing young people with the ideas, activities, products and resources they need to become active and live healthy lifestyles.

"I've been able to touch a lot of people on and off the court and I think I have made a difference is some kids' lives," Stackhouse said. "If I reach two or three kids, then I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."

While he knows that he can do everything he can to help prevent diabetes, Stackhouse already knows that there are people out there living with the disease. While some know that they have the disease, many do not. With November being National Diabetes Awareness Month, Stackhouse encourages people, not only this month but every month, to get tested if they feel they may have the disease.

"If you're going for a physical please have the doctor check you out for diabetes because there are a lot of people walking around with it that have no clue they have a lot of symptoms and don’t even realize they are symptoms of diabetes," Stackhouse said.

Some symptoms of diabetes range from blurred eyesight to having a weak bladder and constantly using the bathroom. Stackhouse's goal is that people who don’t have the disease do everything they can to prevent getting it, while people who already have it and don’t know about it get tested.

"They may have some blurriness that they may just think their eyesight is getting bad or they constantly have to use the bathroom and they may think that it's from drinking too much soda," said Stackhouse. "Those are the things that are important because those are some of the signs. If things that once seemed normal to you that are starting to fade a little bit, go get checked out."