Jewelry-maker turned diabetes into H.O.P.E.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, July 19, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

Four letters — H.O.P.E. — say it all.

Since 2005, Rachel Tobin, 19, of Churchill, has been designing jewelry that includes this word on a charm to help give hope for herself and other individuals living every day with diabetes and other medical conditions. Her “hobby” has turned into a thriving business that has raised nearly $50,000 for JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)

Tobin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 12.

“I didn't know anything about diabetes when I was diagnosed,” Tobin says. “It was a shock for me. I had to learn everything, from injections to eating the right foods to checking my blood sugar. It was definitely a lot to accept, and there were days I wondered, why me? But I committed to change my way of living after I was diagnosed.”

She also made a commitment to raise money for research. Tobin is founder and designer of Rachel's Cure by Design, which features high-quality handmade jewelry and donates 41 percent of the net profit from each sale to JDRF or other charities.

The Shadyside Academy graduate was diagnosed in the summer of 2005. Shortly after, her grandmother Carol Lewis was taking a bead class and showed Tobin how to make bracelets. Tobin originally thought she would make a few bracelets, but after seeing how family, friends and neighbors wanted to buy them, she decided to expand her business. Her younger brother, Josh, 16, helped develop a website and the company was officially formed.

“It just took off; everyone loved the bracelets,” Tobin says. “I am happy to be able to help others. It's fun.”

Her line offers more than 100 styles of high quality, glass, gem and beaded-silver bracelets and other jewelry. Each design includes a hope charm that signifies both hope for a cure for diabetes and a personal inspiration for those who wear it. Each piece is designed by Tobin.

“The hope charm is a universal message, because, we all need to be hopeful in our lives,” Tobin says. “And every piece is made with lots of love.”

Prices for bracelets range from $35 to $70. There also are necklaces and earrings in the collection.

In addition to JDRF, Tobin has teamed to create jewelry for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Beaver County, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation and POWER. The pieces she's created for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation are named Live On! Let it Flow, Key to my Heart, Embracing Families and Sounds of Hope. The one made for POWER is called POWERful Promises.

“Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation is grateful to have Rachel's Cure by Design as a partner in philanthropy,” says Greg Barrett, president, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. “We are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of children throughout the community and surrounding regions and the support of partners like Rachel's further our mission.”

“I was struck by her commitment ... and that in addition to helping JDRF she has also teamed to help other organizations,” says Rosa Davis, executive director of POWER, a group that helps women in recovery live their lives free of addiction. “I love all of her pieces. They are fun and colorful. The spirit and beauty of Rachel's designs are also reminders of the spirit and beauty within each of the women we serve at POWER. It was a natural fit to partner with Rachel to benefit both JDRF and POWER.”

Tobin, who just finished her freshman year at Emory University in Atlanta, is a pre-med student and says her diabetes is one reason she has an interest in medicine. This summer, she is working at Children's Hospital in a research lab.

Her goal is to raise $100,000, and she would love for the company to expand internationally.

Some of the materials she uses are hand-made glass beads, crystals, gemstones, rose quartz and dyed coral.

Tobin's mother, Linda, along with good friend and neighbor Margie Dubner, help create the jewelry and get it shipped to customers from the company's studio.

“Making jewelry is very therapeutic and relaxing,” Linda Tobin says. “When people buy the pieces, it is about feel-good shopping, because you get a beautiful piece of jewelry and you are helping someone else. I am so proud of (Rachel). She has taken something negative and turned it into something positive. She leaves us speechless sometimes with her positive attitude and her desire to help others. We all feel like we are part of helping to make a difference and making a contribution. “

Linda Tobin and Dubner help with day-to-day operations. Each year, they attend a bead show in Tucson, where they select beads and send photos to Rachel for approval. Each piece has a name. Rachel's favorite is a bracelet called Bling it On. The names come from what she sees or how she feels that day.

“It is a passion of mine,” Rachel says. “I know I am doing something good at the same time. I look forward to showing the jewelry and helping others.”

Dubner was shopping recently in a department store when one of the salespeople spotted a necklace and bought it right there. That wasn't the first time someone noticed one of the pieces and purchased one, Dubner says.

“It raises awareness and focus on diabetes,” Dubner says. “We are passionate about giving back, and this is something I love being part of. It is really special.”

Jodi Palamides of Glenshaw has purchased many pieces as gifts and for herself. She has a special connection to the cause because her 16-year-old son Jay has diabetes.

“Before there was a website and stores to buy the jewelry, Rachel's mother, Linda, would meet me to show me different bracelets, which I thought was wonderful,” Palamides says. “She and Rachel and everyone at her company are committed to helping to raise money for this cause. Rachel is a lovely young lady who has an eye for design and creates beautiful jewelry. And how can you not feel good about buying one of these pieces, because you know you are helping someone else?”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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