2011-04-07 / Front Page
Students step up efforts to aid diabetes research
Classmates diagnosed with type 1 discuss their daily routines, hope for a cure
Three of the school’s students battle juvenile, or type 1, diabetes and now serve as advocates in the effort to find a cure.
The schoolwide “Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes” event, held April 1, raised over $5,000 for juvenile diabetes research. The event included classroom lessons, an informative presentation in the cafeteria, and a 30-minute walk in the gymnasium. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed each year with type 1 diabetes in the U.S. The disorder, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas, is generally diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults.
Dan and Lynn Hofacker’s son Christopher, a fourth-grade student at Woodland, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2007 when he was 5 years old. The Hofackers participate in the yearly Walk to Cure Diabetes at Rutgers University and wanted to get Christopher’s school involved, educating other students and bringing awareness to what their son experiences.
“We try to help him be as normal as possible,” Dan said.
Christopher was joined by two other Woodland students who have type 1 — fourth-grader Isabelle Oarsley-Rasmouki and sixth-grader Taylor Wigger. The students attended theApril 1 event and told their classmates how diabetes has affected their lives.
Christopher recited a powerful speech that explained to his fellow classmates how the disorder has changed his life and how he goes about his daily activities. He told of how his family realized he might have diabetes one night when his grandmother was baby-sitting. He said he couldn’t get through watching a movie without getting up repeatedly to drink water and use the bathroom. His symptoms included fairly rapid weight loss and prompted his parents to take him to the hospital.
“Type 1 diabetes is something I have to constantly take care of every day until they find a cure,” Christopher said.
The youngster showed that he is far from alone, listing the names of celebrities who have type 1 diabetes, like singers Nick Jonas and Crystal Bowersox, actress Mary Tyler Moore and 1999 Miss America Nicole Johnson, whom Christopher met at a diabetes event in Orlando, Fla.
“Type 1 diabetes is a chronic illness that I have to deal with every minute of every day,” he said.
After thanking students for their help with the fundraising event, he closed his speech with, “Let’s find a cure.”
Isabelle, diagnosed in January 2010, described what her life has been like since she found out she has diabetes.
“The truth is, you can’t catch diabetes,” she told the attentive audience. Though she has more responsibilities than most children her age, she said, “I’m still a normal kid.”
Isabelle told her classmates about her daily routine of repeatedly checking her blood sugar and being aware of what she eats and when she eats it.
“If I could have one wish, I would wish to not have diabetes, and have a normal life for at least a day,” the fourth-grader said. “I hope one day we find a cure.”
Taylor was diagnosed in March 2010 and said the news changed her life forever. She said her life is different because she has to worry about things that don’t cross the minds of most other kids.
“Living with type 1 diabetes is a challenge,” the sixth-grader said.
“I know it may sound scary, but I am so used to it now, and the shots don’t hurt,” Taylor told her classmates. “It has brought my family, friends and I closer.”
After the presentations, the entire school cheered on the three students. Many of the classmates proceeded to ask questions about what they just learned.
“Are you close to finding a cure?” one student asked.
Maryann Malak, a development manager with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, was at the event to answer students’ questions.
“We have been doing [research] for 40 years,” she said. “We are closer than we have ever been [to finding a cure].”
Malak described the clinical trials that JDRF is conducting to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, and educated students on the science and technology that have been discovered to help deliver insulin to the body. Christopher, for example, has a pump that provides his body with insulin throughout the day.
Christopher was not shy about showing the rectangular device to his classmates, raising it off its clip on his waistline.
Though the disorder may be difficult to deal with, Malak assured the audience that the students with diabetes are just like everyone else, and can participate in many of the activities that other children enjoy.
Malak thanked the students for their participation and their donations to the event. As for a cure, she said, “We are well on our way.”