Cincinnati Country Day School has a long time school walk team for the JDRF One Walk Kings Island. CCDS has stepped up and gone above and beyond during a year with so much uncertainty. We recently interviewed Casey Schnieber, CCDS Dean of Students, to learn, “Why CCDS Walks” for JDRF.
JDRF: When did CCDS start participating in the JDRF One Walk? What was the connection to type 1?
Casey: Cincinnati Country Day School began a partnership with the JDRF in the fall of 2002 as a part of the Middle School’s Make A Difference Day, a division-wide day of service to others. At that time, a sixth-grade student of ours had been recently diagnosed with T1D and his family were big JDRF advocates and suggested the walk as a way to build awareness in the community and help the Foundation’s research efforts. Anna Hartle, a retired sixth grade teacher, helped organize a walk-a-thon on the Little Miami Bike Trail. Under Anna’s guidance, Country Day’s sixth grade teachers developed the walk and a strong partnership with the JDRF, walking eighteen of the last nineteen years and raised over $86,000 to help the JDRF work toward their mission of finding a cure for T1D.
JDRF: Why is the JDRF One Walk important to your school, specifically the 6th grade class?
Casey: This walk has grown to be a big part of sixth grade at CCDS. Over the years we came to recognize the incredible number of students who have family and friends impacted by diabetes, and even added a column on our pledge sheet titled “Donated in Honor of…” to allow recognition of the loved ones dealing with diabetes. Working with the JDRF and within our community over the years, our students get to hear first-hand accounts of what it is like to live with T1D. What started as a parent of a diagnosed sixth grader talking about living with T1D has led to an impressive array of diagnosed teachers at the school, Upper School students, JDRF representatives, and former sixth grade students who have walked and were later diagnosed who have all taken the time to speak to sixth graders over the years and share the wonderful ways the research of the JDRF has made their lives better. We share each year how the money raised by previous sixth grade students have improved patients’ ways of life and how we’ve seen multiple shots a day give way to the development of the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitors, and how current research to develop an artificial pancreas and eventually eradicate the disease continues with our support. Inviting representatives from the SW Ohio chapter of the JDRF for education and awareness, combined with the real world accounts from members of our community, link the abstract concepts to the concrete reality of living with T1D and motivates our students to serve others.
JDRF: How does the 6th class participate? Do they each have fundraising goals?
Casey: Sixth graders are asked to talk with family and close friends about the mission of the JDRF to build awareness of their mission, and also share our plans to have a Walk-a-Thon to raise money for the Foundation and invite them to pledge money for the cause. Our walk, typically at the end of September, is about six miles on the Loveland Bike path between Miamiville and downtown Loveland, ending at Nesbit park with a sack lunch and some time to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. Students are given a modest goal of $5 per student, but their enthusiasm and outreach far exceeds that total each year.
JDRF: Can you talk about an activity the school has done to teach the 6th graders more about type 1 diabetes?
Casey: When we first started our walk in 2002, the first group of students had a classmate with T1D. His mother wanted to make the students aware of the importance of the research to improve the quality of life for patients, so she devised a system in her presentation where every student put a rubber band on their wrist. As she walked through a day in the life of her son, at each point of the day when he had to test his insulin levels or receive a shot, they were instructed to snap the rubber band on their wrist to simulate the prick of the needle. It was illuminating to the students how many times this had to happen, morning, noon, night, and overnight, so that his body could function properly. It was a great exercise in empathy and really drove home the message of how important furthering the research and development of life changing therapies and devices could be in the life of a peer.
JDRF: Your fundraising was very successful this year, comparable to your 2019 Walk! What did you do differently this year? How did you keep up momentum given the pandemic?
Casey: Like everything else in 2020, Country Day had to adjust our plans for our walk this year. Since it was so early in the fall and we were learning anew how to operate as a school, we had to bypass some of our tried and true plans like classroom education and assemblies. For example, we couldn’t invite JDRF representatives onto campus to share with us their mission, we couldn’t ride busses from Campus to get to our normal walking spot, and we were even hesitant to assemble with students or teachers from outside our division. We missed having the JDRF reps onto campus to educate us in the weeks leading up to the walk and instead had the teachers speak to the students with resources from previous years. We persisted and modified the plan, however, and utilized our beautiful 62-acre campus to set a path that would allow us to be socially distanced, masked, and still match the traditional six-mile walk. The representatives of the JDRF were able to video conference with us after our walk so we could present them with our check and recognize some of our top pledge earners.
JDRF: Any advice for teams who are nervous about fundraising due to COVID-19?
Casey: It’s been amazing to watch the flexibility and grit on display over the past year as we wrestle with Covid-19. It took time as a school to determine the best practices to keep our community safe, but once we figured it out, it was a no brainer to establish new plans to enable a JDRF walk to happen this year. The weather worked out and enabled us to walk the entire campus, but we had plans in place to walk in the rain on the track if need be. Weather hasn’t always cooperated for us in the past but making the connection between the small adversity we’ll face on a paved bike path in the rain or cold to the adversity those with T1D face on a daily basis builds resilience and empathy in our students while we Make a Difference in the lives of those impacted by T1D. If the pandemic is preventing you from following through on a planned fundraiser, I’d suggest working with the JDRF and within your community to modify what has traditionally been done to make it work. While our walk was different this year and the methods to deliver information changed, the impact of the students’ efforts were on par with years past and a difference was certainly made!