Local News

NBA Look-Alike Hopes Image Can Encourage Message

Posted November 29, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— November marks National Diabetes Awareness month in the United States. Many of us know someone who is diabetic, but we don't know a lot about the disease. A Triangle man wants to change that. He's using his likeness to a well-known NBA star to do it.

Charles Ray has diabetes, and he wants to raise awareness about the disease. So, he thought it would be a perfect idea to make a public service announcement, or PSA, with his lookalike, Houston Rockets star Charles Barkley. It wasn't so easy though, to get a response from Barkley's agent.

"He just told me straight out, you know, Charles, he doesn't want to do this PSA with you," Ray explains. "Just leave us alone."

But after five years, Ray finally convinced former NBA and UNC standout, James Worthy, to do the PSA with him. And now, the American Diabetes Association will distribute Ray's PSA nationally.

"I think it's very positive that Charles is so committed to diabetes that he would go to such lengths," says ADA Assistant Vice-President Phil Templeton. "I know he was turned down on many occasions."

One person who kept Ray's spirits up was Dr. John Buse at UNC, a leading diabetes researcher, who says Ray can do even more good by addressing groups that have some of the highest rates of diabetes.

"I think he has great potential as a spokesperson to work in the minority community, and the community at large regarding diabetes treatment issues," Dr. Buse says.

So someday Ray may meet face to face with small groups to further his mission.

"It's all about putting diabetes on a recognizable level that it should be," Ray explains. "You have cancer and you have AIDS, and those are very serious diseases, but you know, most people think of diabetes as not being one."

There are six times as many diabetics now as there were in the 1950's. Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control say obesity and high-fat diets are partially to blame. Worldwide, 125-million people are affected. The CDC expects that number to double by the year 2025.