School takes to the streets to raise diabetes awareness

by Tori Hamby

Coulwood Middle School students Kimberly Hernandez (left), Taniyah Corry (center) and Mary Beth Rawls (right) lead the school’s juvenile diabetes walk April 20. (Tori Hamby/MIM photo)

Fighting juvenile diabetes is a team effort, and students at a Mountain Island middle school have united to take on that challenge.

A police escort and the school’s band led more than 300 Coulwood Middle School students through the surrounding Coulwood neighborhood the morning of April 20 to bring awareness to the disease that affects more than three million Americans. For a donation of $5 or more, students got out of class for the morning and participated in the walk. They netted more than $2,000 for JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, said event organizer and school nurse Carolyn McNeil.

“With the enormous amount of work and effort that it takes to help (the school’s) diabetic students have a safe and healthy day, we think that it is important that we raise awareness,” McNeil said.

Coulwood neighbors gathered outside of their homes to watch the parade of students and donate money. Sarah Cunningham, special events coordinator for the JDFR’s Charlotte chapter, said that while most schools chose to simply walk around their tracks or ball fields, Coulwood Middle chose to take their efforts out to the heart of the community.

McNeil said she came up with idea while taking her own jaunt through the neighborhood.

“We just happen to live in an area where it can really come together,” McNeil said.

For diabetic sixth-graders Zayan Dixon and Taniyah Corry, the walk gave each of them the chance to discuss juvenile diabetes, also known as Type I diabetes, with their classmates.

“They have lots of questions,” Taniyah said.

Having diabetes, Zayan said, sometimes keeps him from participating in certain activities with classmates.

“I don’t get to play sports as much as I would like,” Zayan said.

The event preceded the JDRF Charlotte chapter’s annual Walk to Cure Diabetes on April 21 at Carowinds. In addition to local walks throughout the year, Cunningham said, the chapter holds a golf tournament and black-tie gala.

“JDRF is an organization that raises money to fund a cure for diabetes and its complications, as well as different treatments,” Cunningham said. “Our kids’ walks serve two purposes: They raise awareness in the school and the community surrounding it, and help raise money for research.”

Type I diabetes causes the immune system to attack their body’s insulin, producing beta cells in the pancreas, dangerously raising the levels of glucose in the blood. Those diagnosed with the disease may have to monitor their blood sugar levels several times a day, give themselves insulin shots or use an insulin pump to make up for the body’s inability to make the hormone and follow rigid diet guidelines.

JDRF estimates that over 13,000 children, at least 35 per day, are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.

“Juvenile diabetes has such an impact on the lives of (our diabetic students),” McNeil said. “It’s a great way that we can help those who are right here in our own school.”

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