Alan Thicke is worried that he will arrive late to his venue, so he calls from the road for our telephone interview. Thicke, who stars with his family in the mock-reality television show Unusually Thicke, is racing to a venue in New Jersey to host a show called Dancing Pros Live.
“It’s like Dancing With the Stars, but without the stars,” Thicke quips.
Thicke makes time for the interview because diabetes is never far from his mind, even though his son, Brennan, is now fully grown and a medical marijuana entrepreneur in California. Thicke, who became known as the ultimate television dad in the 80’s sitcom Growing Pains, says that parents of children with Type 1 diabetes never stop worrying about their children, even if they no longer manage day-to-day blood sugar levels.
“I think he certainly knows I’m completely there for him,” he says. “I’ve put a lot of time and energy and money into promoting the cause and finding a cure for my eldest son.”
Thicke is a veteran of the diabetes research fundraising circuit, both for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and for the Alan Thicke Centre For Juvenile Diabetes Research at the University of Western Ontario. He often can be found promoting other causes, as well. He jokes that philanthropy can be a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” world; if he speaks at the events of other causes, others will reciprocate and speak on behalf of diabetes research. Philanthropy helps Thicke feel like he’s doing something to combat a frustrating condition that has impacted the life of his son.
“If you’re not doing something, you’re driving yourself crazy,” he says. “To me, it’s almost a selfish kind of therapy.”
That feeling seems to be shared by Brennan, who has decided to enter the burgeoning medical marijuana industry in California. Thicke says his son got into the medical marijuana business because he knew first-hand the effects that chronic discomfort can have on quality of life.
“The notion of making people more comfortable….became a bit of a crusade for him,” Thicke says.
That crusade is shared by Brennan’s family. Gloria Loring, Thicke’s first wife and Brennan’s mother, organized a celebrity cookbook with recipes from fellow cast members of Days of our Lives, to raise money for Type 1 diabetes research in 1981, at a time when such celebrity activism was uncommon. Both Thicke and Loring have written extensively about their experiences parenting a child with Type 1 diabetes, as well.
Thicke, whose default public persona is unflappable, shows rare flashes of impatience when he talks about the pace of Type 1 diabetes research. He believes beta cell transplantation is key to new treatments for Type 1, but he grows frustrated with how long it has taken to get to this point. That’s why he decided he had to get involved and create his own research center. He wanted Brennan to be free of diabetes yesterday, and he certainly doesn’t want to wait decades longer.
“Things just seemed to be moving too slow in the research-and-cure department,” Thicke says. “People think that there’s progress being made…that’s not fast enough for our children.”
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