The Christ-King Catholic School (CKCS) held its annual Walk for Diabetes fundraiser raising about $2,000 this year.
With umbrellas and rubber boots CKCS students and teachers walked a few times around West Stettler Park June 1.
“We started the school walk when my oldest son was in Grade 1,” said Melissa Zimmermann. “We have always fundraised for Juvenile Diabetes and after I spoke to the school about what Type 1 Diabetes was and what it meant for Carter, Grade 4, they wanted to help us raise funds and awareness for research.”
Zimmermann’s second son, Tucker, Grade 2, was also diagnosed.
“The kids got even more fired up to help further Type 1 Diabetes research.
“This school, these kids, are incredible,” added Zimmermann. “They are so smart, knowing the signs, symptoms, and realities of Type 1 Diabetes, and they support their friend Carter and Tucker in many ways, including through this fundraising walk. The teachers and staff have always made it possible for both boys to have a full learning experience and have as normal of a routine as possible.”
Zimmermann said living with Type 1 Diabetes can be difficult for her sons but the staff have done all they can to incorporate their diabetes care into their normal routine.
“Carter and Tucker don’t know that, at other schools (even in this province), children living with Type 1 Diabetes have very little to no support and have a very different, non-inclusive, experience.”
At times this support is overwhelming.
“The support that the entire school — staff, students, and parents — have shown our family moves me to tears,” said Zimmerman. “To know that my children are safe, supported, and cared about in the place that they spend the majority of their days, is every mother’s dream. Knowing that the children and parents are out, educating their friends and family about Type 1 Diabetes, and asking for support in raising funds for a cure, really shows how amazing this community is.”
On a daily basis, the boys’ blood sugar levels and amount of carbohydrate intake have to be monitored. They also receive artificial insulin based on the blood sugar and carbs eaten.
“This requires a ton of math for their little minds and the ability to plan ahead for activity happening later in the day,” said Zimmerman. “For example, if Carter has gym class, the extra activity will burn off the carbohydrates (which raise blood sugar) in his body at a quicker rate than if he had math class. If he has too much insulin on board (which lowers blood sugar), he could ‘go low’ and lose consciousness, seize, and, if untreated, die. The boys live with these possible, life or death, emergent situations on a daily basis.”
There are also many long-term risks for blood sugar levels that aren’t carefully monitored and kept within range, said Zimmerman.
“Persistent high blood sugars can result in long-term heart, liver, kidney and eye disease. In the short term, high blood sugars make concentration and memory retention difficult, which is an issue when you’re in school.”
Even with all the awareness Zimmermann said there’s still a stigma surrounding diabetes.
“Often, people who are uneducated about the different types of diabetes assume that our boys have had poor nutrition or exercise habits. Type 1 Diabetes, however, is an autoimmune disease (like MS or Lupus); the body’s immune system attacked the beta (insulin-producing) cells in their pancreas, killing them off. The beta cells cannot regenerate and, as a result, their bodies no longer produce insulin.
“They didn’t ask for this disease,” added Zimmermann. “We had no way to predict it, we had no family history of diabetes before Carter’s diagnosis, and they will never grow out of it. Our only hope is for a cure and that’s why we work so hard to raise funds for the researchers working diligently for one.”