Marlayna Bollinger’s organization achieved a five-times increase in enrollment in 2017 for the second consecutive year. Photo by Bob Thompson/Fotowerks

Marlayna Bollinger’s organization achieved a five-times increase in enrollment in 2017 for the second consecutive year. Photo by Bob Thompson/Fotowerks

— Martin Luther King Jr. said, “There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available.”

For Marlayna Bollinger, this quote is a powerful force in her nonprofit work, for which she was recently honored with a 2018 Health Care Heroes award.

As executive director of the nonprofit Skinny Gene Project, Bollinger leads a team dedicated to helping others prevent Type 2 diabetes. 

“I have experienced, first-hand, the devastation caused by losing a family or friend to diabetes,” Bollinger said. “Right now, one in three people, including young adults, are at risk of developing Type 2 — a disease that largely preventable.”

The Skinny Gene Project is a division of the J. Moss Foundation. It seeks to provide families with evidence-based programs that teach healthful eating habits that can prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. These programs include one-on-one nutrition counseling, community outreach events that may include free risk factor screenings, small support groups, and cooking classes.

Accessing the Care

“The problem with the diabetes epidemic isn’t a lack of a solution, it’s that there is a solution readily available but our San Diegans don’t know how to access it,” Bollinger said. “Our goal is to make these resources accessible and available.

“We want to fight for families.”

Bollinger’s role takes her from classrooms to the community to medical offices and even to Sacramento to pursue policy changes. Her organization achieved a five times increase in enrollment in 2017 and for the second consecutive year received the rare full recognition from the Centers for Disease Control.

Despite her recent award to the contrary, Bollinger doesn’t view herself as a hero.

Role Model

“I wouldn’t call myself a hero,” Bollinger said. “I’m a mom, and my greatest responsibility is to model the behavior I’d like to see in her one day.”

For Bollinger, that means showing her daughter to have compassion for others and a desire to give back to our community. “Most importantly, showing the courage and tenacity to fight for what right and enable others to do the same.”

The San Antonio, Texas-native is a proud graduate of the University of Texas, Austin. After college, Bollinger spent five-plus blustery winters in Chicago before moving to San Diego.

“My husband Richard, my 10-year-old daughter, Nyiah, and I have been residents of our Scripps Ranch community for over 12 years,” Bollinger said. “We have no intention of leaving. I’m a lover of wine, sunshine, and spending quality time with friends and family.”