Those who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D) know that it is a 24/7 disease that requires constant management. People with T1D continuously and carefully balance insulin intake with eating, exercise and other activities. When the person with T1D is a baby or toddler, it can be a more difficult balancing act. Michelle Summers is the mother of 2-year-old Theo who was diagnosed with T1D at the age of 14 months. She is the team captain of the JDRF One Walk team T1D Tots. The team is not only walking to end T1D, but also to raise awareness that babies and toddlers can be diagnosed with T1D. All of the families walking with this team have little ones who were diagnosed with T1D when they were under 5 years old. We sat down with Michelle to ask her about what inspires her and T1D Tots to walk.
JDRF Bay Area: How did T1D Tots come together? How did you all meet each other?
Michelle: When Theo was diagnosed, we met Adrea Tencer through JDRF’s Outreach Volunteer Program. She was so wonderful in chatting on the phone, coming to visit us with her girls in Berkeley, and giving us so many valuable resources about the T1D community. Adrea connected us with the Pollock family initially by having us over to visit and then again inviting our families to be a part of the recent JDRF Hope Gala. We were connected with the Johnson family through the Kaiser Pediatric Endocrinology department. Devi is now one of Theo’s best friends, and since we recommended our wonderful nanny Emily to the Johnsons, they play all the time together with her and on play dates. Finally, we recently met the Clausen-Armbruster family at a Diabetes 101 event for the newly diagnosed in Walnut Creek. Theo has had a blast playing with Isla and meeting a new friend who is going to be Looping soon like him!
JDRF Bay Area: What does the JDRF One Walk mean to your family?
Michelle: Last year’s Walk was our first, but was a really important step both in healing and feeling like part of the community. My parents, Todd and Becky Timmons, have been amazingly supportive (my dad and brother Terry rode over 1000 miles last summer to raise money for Race for the Cure – they rode 900 miles from Arkansas to Wisconsin and then did the 100 mile bike ride in La Crosse), and they came from Arkansas for the Walk last year. Cameron’s parents, Randy and Candice, also participated by raising money and flying from New Mexico. Finally, our amazing T1D nanny “Em” rounded out our team. It was really special to see the outpouring of support that came from family and friends in the form of donations and kind notes, and Walk day was invigorating and fun last year (although we definitely did not make it the whole 5k – our T1D tot stopped to explore a field of flowers and trees for about an hour!).
JDRF Bay Area: What is Theo’s favorite part of Walk day? What is your favorite part?
Michelle: Theo really loves the start and the finish of the Walk – all of the energy and excitement brought smiles to his face, and he loved watching the “older” kids who were speaking as the JDRF advocates. I had tears in my eyes as we started the Walk – just happy to have survived the first year and be able to contribute to a cause that might someday be the reason for a cure!
JDRF Bay Area: Why is it important to fundraise for the Walk?
Michelle: I really appreciate JDRF because it is one of the only organizations that focuses on research and funding type 1 diabetes – I think this is vitally important as the type 2 population receives so much of the focus and often has different needs from those who are insulin-dependent at an early age. JDRF’s programs are so multi-faceted, and we have benefited in numerous ways already. The outreach and support to families, the advocacy on the local and national levels for insulin price reduction and the Special Diabetes Program, the community events – these are just some ways that JDRF has touched our lives. The Walk is a great opportunity to remind people that their support really matters and can ultimately be the reason that T1D goes from being a death sentence 100 years ago to (hopefully!) a curable disease in my son’s lifetime.
More comments from T1D Tots:
Theo (Summers Family)
“Theo will turn 3 years old the week before the SF One Walk. He was diagnosed when he was 14 months old, and this will be his 2nd walk. Theo loves life and especially likes to do puzzles, play with trains, travel the world, and eat Sweetgreen salads.”
Olivia (Pollock Family)
“Our daughter Olivia is 4 years old. She was diagnosed at age 3, just a couple of months after her birthday. We’ve been a T1D Family for just over a year now. Olivia loves to wear crowns, loves Art projects, swimming, playing with Legos and strawberries and grapes. She also loves to play with her older brother.”
Devi (Johnson Family)
“Our daughter’s name is Devi (Day-vee) and she is 2. She was diagnosed at age of 18 mos. She loves animals, playing ball, milk with “sugar free” chocolate syrup and being the alpha presence in our house. She has also declared lately that she would rather go by her middle name Bowie.”
Isla (Clausen/Armbruster Family)
“Isla is 2 years old and was diagnosed at 15 months old. She definitely loves to live life in the fast lane and at the edge (especially on her bike!). Her hero is her older brother Axel.”