Donna Covert has been a passionate supporter of the JDRF One Walk for more than five years, as Team Captain of Finn’s Covert Ops. This year, she changed the name to Team Tierney, and there’s a deeply meaningful reason why. Their team story began when Donna’s grandson Finn Tierney, now 10, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 3. Donna and her husband Bob were taking care of him for a couple of days, and noticed classic symptoms, including extreme thirst and frequent urination. There was no history of T1D in the family, and Donna and Bob knew very little about the disease at the time. But they knew enough to alert Finn’s parents, Sarah and Gabe Tierney, who took him to the nearest medical center, where his blood sugar reading was over 600. The entire family, along with many supportive relatives and friends, have rallied around Finn at the Walk every year since then.
A few years ago, Finn’s Covert Ops were enjoying the JDRF One Walk in the East Bay. TrialNet was at the Walk, offering risk screening blood tests for relatives of people with T1D. All of the kids in Finn’s extended family wanted to be screened, including his sister Rowan Tierney. It was discovered then that Rowan had three of the five autoantibodies related to T1D. She has been closely monitored since then, and earlier this year Rowan, age 7, was diagnosed with T1D.
Finn’s Covert Ops has been renamed Team Tierney, to recognize both of their grandchildren who are now living with T1D.
Finn has always loved being with family and cousins on Walk day. “It’s his special event, a special day that relates to him,” says Donna. “Rowan knows it’s about her now too.” Team Tierney is 20 walkers strong and has raised more than $28,000 over the years. This year, their goal is to raise $15,000 at the Walk in San Ramon. Team members utilize the fundraising tools on the JDRF One Walk Participant Center and find it very easy to reach out to their network, knowing that JDRF is committed to using donations responsibly. “There are many diabetes-related charities. Based on our research, JDRF is the best; a very high percentage of each donation goes directly to research, education and care,” says Donna.
“The Walk means so much to people who have T1D. It acknowledges them and tells them that we are here for them,” says Donna. “It allows us to connect with other people impacted by T1D. And, it teaches our grandchildren that if people band together, great things can happen.”
Finn and Rowan’s parents have now been through two diagnoses and the learning process that comes with it. They are energetic fundraisers for the Walk in San Ramon and also in their hometown of Sacramento. Each year on Father’s Day, Gabe hosts a Whiffel Ball Tournament that raises money for JDRF. Their friends and colleagues have enthusiastically participated, helping to raise thousands of dollars over the years.
The siblings have not let T1D stop them. They are both active in many sports while paying close attention to their health. Rowan has adapted quickly to her new life with T1D, due in large part to empathy and know-how from her brother. Still, a cure would bring great relief to the family. “It would give us assurance that their bodies won’t be beaten by this disease,” says Donna. “It would give us a greater confidence that our grandchildren can live long and healthy lives.”