Some teenagers don’t like to eat breakfast.
Fifteen years ago in one Victorian family, the father of a teenage girl with type 1 diabetes decided to eat breakfast with his daughter every day. Together with his wife, the father needed to see their daughter eat to be confident that her blood glucose level was safe enough for her to go off to school. Their morning routine was to eat breakfast together and do a BGL test, sharing an easy, quiet moment before the day began. They jokingly called it the Café of Love.
The father was Peter, and to him it wasn’t a joke. “She knows, I have told her many times, that if I could have taken type 1 diabetes from her and had it myself, I would have done it in a flash. It was devastating to have to give her injections and fingerpricks every day, to keep her alive.”
Those experiences prompted in Peter a commitment to philanthropy that has stayed consistent over nearly 20 years, and in tandem with the success of his business, his giving to JDRF now exceeds half a million dollars.
Peter is humble about his generosity.
“If I don’t help, then I’m not doing anything to fix the problem. There’s a selfish part of this for me, I am thinking about my family. I know that things may not change in time to help my daughter. But it might help my grandkids, or even their kids.”
Business has been good, and Peter is able to give to JDRF through his interests. He attributes his success to working hard, but he’s also proud that they do things a bit differently at A1 Blinds. “We have our own range of outdoor canvas fabric and we give really good design advice. We’re heavily focused on customer service, and we do repairs as well. Referrals and repeat custom is a huge part of our business. We look after people.”
It’s true. Not only has A1 Blinds served thousands of Victorians, it has had a substantial impact on JDRF’s research funding, and they also support World Vision.
Peter doesn’t force his philanthropy on people. “Unless you know someone with type 1 diabetes, you can’t really understand how serious it is. People think, it’s your own fault, you’re too fat, it’s a lifestyle thing. We don’t go to events, we just donate the money.”
After a long and varied career, Peter is now down to three days a week at the business but he says he’ll never really retire. “I love working,” he says simply. A1 Blinds was started by Peter’s father in 1958 but he didn’t go straight into it. He tried more than 30 jobs before settling down in to the family business, including welding, building and scaffolding; he even turned his hand to grave-digging.
Medical research into type 1 diabetes used to be a bit of a hobby. “I’d cut out media articles but not so much anymore. They’ve got to sell those papers but I know that when the cure really comes we will find out, I don’t need the clippings to keep me going.” These days one his main hobbies is spending time with his grandkids.
The Café of Love is still open; Peter makes a point of going out to breakfast a couple of times a year with both his daughters, who are in their thirties now and both have children.
The daughter with T1D knows her father has done a great deal to support research. “She’s seen the plaque and so on. We don’t talk about it a lot but I think it makes her happy. She still calls it the Café of Love. I suppose that was the silver lining to type 1 diabetes.”