Ross Elementary raises more than 6K for juvenile diabetes research
Joey Palmero, an 11-year-old fifth- grader at Ross Elementary School, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes two years ago when his blood glucose levels soared 700 percent higher than normal.
His classmate, 10-year-old Katelyn Nestor, was diagnosed with the disease last year after losing 10 pounds in three days.
Another 10-year-old classmate, Ari Gurchak, missed school for one week because of overwhelming fatigue, an unquenchable thirst, and incessant vomiting — all classic symptoms of juvenile diabetes. He now takes four insulin shots per day to control it.
Nick Sherbo, an 8-year-old third- grader at Ross, also has it.
Juvenile diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to get energy from food. Complications can affect major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys. Diabetics must monitor their sugar intake and blood glucose levels.
“The hardest part about having diabetes is seeing my friends eat any food they want. Or when you're invited to a party and you're not allowed to eat any treats,” Nestor said.
“Halloween is the worst,” added Palermo.
All four students shared their stories and answered questions about diabetes during Ross Elementary School's first-ever school-wide assembly associated with the Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes program sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The program teaches students about diabetes and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and provides them with an opportunity to make a difference by raising money for Type 1 diabetes research.
In support of their diabetic classmates, the entire student body, comprised of 650 children in kindergarten through sixth grade, engaged in a two-mile diabetes walk around the school's outdoor track and campus perimeter Sept. 22.
They raised $6,643.22 for juvenile diabetes research.
“It's really hot out here, but we're helping scientists find a cure,” said first-grader Angela Irizarry, 6, of Ross, as she forged through the 87-degree heat.
“I applaud Ross Elementary. It means so very much to know that a school community rallied around families who are directly touched by Type 1 diabetes in such a tangible way. The students feel good about raising money to help others, especially when they know they're helping their friends,” said Carol Yannuzzi, executive director of JDRF Western PA Chapter.
Juvenile diabetes affects 1.2 million Americans. It can strike at any age. Between 2001 and 2009 there was a 21-percent increase in the prevalence of juvenile diabetes in people under the age of 20, according to the JDRF website.
Since its inception in 1970, JDRF has contributed more than $2 billion to juvenile diabetes research, which has helped develop therapies, provide advocacy, and inch closer to finding a prevention and cure.
When Nestor was first diagnosed, she had to test her blood sugar levels as often as 10 times a day by pricking her finger. She had to endure four insulin shots each day.
Today, she wears an insulin pump that mimics the pancreas by administering small doses of insulin under the skin throughout the day. She also utilizes a continuous blood sugar monitor that is inserted beneath the skin to keep track of her glucose levels. It alerts her when those levels rise or dip.
“I love (my insulin pump and glucose monitor) more than anything else in the world,” she said.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.