Giving Back at School

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JDRF Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes is an educational, in–school fundraising program with two goals: to educate students about type 1 and type 2 diabetes and the importance of a healthy lifestyle—and to raise money for life-changing type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

Since 2011, schools in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts, have joined forces for a district-wide JDRF Kids Walk program to raise awareness in the community and raise support for T1D research. Starting with one elementary school, the program has now expanded to 14 schools that have raised more than $173,000–surpassing all expectations. We sat down with Jen Amendolare who leads the Walk’s parent committee. Read an excerpt of our interview below.

What draws the Quincy schools to participate in the JDRF Kids Walk program?

Quincy is a very close knit and supportive community. The Quincy JDRF Kids Walk is a family friendly event with music and fun. It provides the kids with an outlet to be able to support their classmates, teammates and friends that are living with T1D. It helps the kids feel like they are a part of the process of finding better treatments and a cure. We are able to demonstrate that JDRF, the research they fund and the support they provide families affected by with T1D is directly impacting lives of community members.

How would you describe the parent committee’s role in the Kids Walk program?

What is not part of the committee’s role is the real question! We do pretty much everything, soup to nuts! The committee organizes Walk logistics, interfaces with participating schools, works with the school administration and city to obtain necessary permission and licensing, and solicits donations of services, food and water for the Walk. We also create and sell t-shirts and work with the local news outlets to publicize the Walk.  Our committee members are passionate and dedicated to making our walk a success.  We could not have accomplished all we have without their hard work.

How do you think the students benefit from the diabetes education presented through the program?

The students learn what diabetes is, type 1 versus type 2. They learn about the symptoms, what doesn’t cause it, the dangers it brings, and that it is not contagious. They also learn that although T1D is an everyday struggle, it does not stop people from doing what they want.  It is an inspiring message.

Can you describe the day of the celebratory walk?

It is like a huge block party. There are banners, raffles, decorations, music, games, face painting and lots of food! The Quincy Walk is attended by all ages: elementary school students, middle school students, high school students, families, teachers, nurses, principals, gym teachers, coaches, friends, teammates, local politicians, police, firefighters, the sheriff’s department and local business owners. Everyone is there volunteering and everything we supply at the Walk is either donated from a local business or from the parents committee.

You have been involved with the program for several years. What keeps you coming back?

The JDRF Kids Walk sends a powerful message and empowers our kids with T1D. My family’s story is a great example. My son, Joe, was diagnosed over five years ago when he was a fourth grader. When he was first diagnosed, he didn’t want anyone to know that he had T1D but pretty much forced him to go to the Quincy JDRF Kids Walk that first year. When we arrived there were hundreds of people; kids he knew from school, baseball, soccer and cub scouts. Then we started to hear the stories. Kids dumping their piggy banks into the pledge envelopes, giving everything they had, running lemonade stands and families having garage sales. By the time the Walk started, he was front and center holding the banner, proudly proclaiming that he had T1D. Fast forward to 2016, Joe completed his ninth grade STEM project on T1D and the impact of protein and exercise. He won an award and went in front of the school committee to talk about his project and he was also one of the three teens that presented our Walk to the Quincy City Council this year.

Is there anything else you want people to know about Quincy’s JDRF Kids Walk?

I would like to recommend to any parent of a school age child with T1D that if you are inspired to fundraise for JDRF, partnering with your child’s school and having a JDRF Kids Walk is a great way to raise money–and more importantly raise awareness–about T1D within your community. Any one of our committee members would be happy to be a resource to anyone that is interested in starting one up.

Thank you to Jen for sharing your story and to the Quincy community for supporting JDRF in our journey to create a world without T1D.

For more information on the JDRF Kids Walk program, please visit www.jdrf.org/kidswalk.

By Aamna Dosani