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Sterling Heights

March 5, 2013

Contestants hope to hit a high note to benefit diabetes

All proceeds from competition/dinner will go to American Diabetes Association

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Sterling Heights resident Rita Marra, 39, hit rock bottom with her Type 2 diabetes this past fall.

Diagnosed with diabetes when she was 30, she took insulin and managed the disease with diet and exercise, but she was having a hard time. 

“I had pain in my legs, limited mobility and was taking high doses of insulin up to four times a day,” she said. “I had to find something and make a change in my health.”

The owner of three businesses, Senior Sources, Flowers by Jolie and Trading Places, Marra wasn’t able to be involved in her businesses as much as she wanted to be. 

With help from Tracy Quasarano, a registered nurse at Comprehensive Weight Clinic and Medical Spa in Clinton Township, Marra said she took charge of her health.

“I completely turned my life around and dropped 60 pounds,” Marra said. “I went from four shots of insulin a day to one. I can’t stress enough how diet and exercise on a regular basis can change your life.”

Quasarano explained that Type 2 diabetes is often caused by obesity and generally develops later in life. “I’m a trauma nurse and I saw that heart attacks, hypertension and diabetes were caused by obesity, particularly when the patients had big bellies.”

Quasarano said the clinic personalized the weight-loss program for Marra. “Rita is very determined,” she added.

Marra’s experience inspired her to once again spearhead an event to raise funds to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Her last event in 2011 featured a dance competition.

This time, it’s all about singing. “My events are all about involving the community,” Marra said.

This past winter, Marra held singing competitions at various local venues to whittle down 30 enthusiastic and talented amateurs to the 24 who will compete at the event March 8. Auditions were held at the Wellington Pub in Sterling Heights and Luciano’s Restaurant in Clinton Township in January, and semifinals were held at Ciccarelli’s Sports Bar in Shelby Township last month.

“A lot of my friends say I can sing,” said finalist Jeff White, 40, from Warren. “And lo and behold, I’m part of the finalists.”

The lead-up events and the semifinals were “crazy fun,” White said.

White said he sings at karaoke bars in the area from time to time, always the same song, “Live Like You Were Dying,” a hit by singer Tim McGraw.

“I’m the only country guy in the group,” he said.

He said his wife of three weeks, Marissa Marrocco-White, danced at Marra’s last big charity event. He’s hoping that his friends and family fill up three tables at the event to help Marra reach her goal this time, which is to raise $40,000.

Sweet Notes to Benefit Diabetes will be held at 6 p.m. March 8 at Penna’s of Sterling, 38400 Van Dyke in Sterling Heights. The cost is $50 per person and includes dinner, beer, wine, beverages and coffee. The dress code is formal attire. 

People must purchase tickets in advance; call Marra at (248) 722-8778 or purchase tickets online on Facebook under the Sweet Notes to Defeat Diabetes page.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.