Meet Connie Lesko, December’s Every Day Hero.
In the words of Outreach Coordinator Sarah Brawley:
“If you know Connie Lesko, you know what a fierce advocate she is for JDRF and the T1D community. Connie’s daughter Kailee was diagnosed with T1D at the age of four years old. Since then Connie has been volunteering for JDRF and is a member of the Richmond One Walk Committee. She also has had a walk team with her daughter called Kailee’s Crusaders for several years now and volunteers at the annual Richmond gala. We are so honored to have Connie and her family as apart of our JDRF family and this month’s Everyday Hero.”
What is your T1D story?
My daughter Kailee was diagnosed with TID in Aug. 2003, at the age of 4. She was playing outside and kept asking for something to drink. It was hot day so the excessive thirst didn’t seem unreasonable, we were outside running around after all. The thirst continued throughout the night. The next day my sister took her to the doctor while I was at work. I got a call from my sister saying, “We need to take Kailee to MCV Emergency Room downtown. She has Ketones.” My response, “What are Ketones?” She said she would try to explain it on the way to the hospital. Since I had only lived here a couple of months, I didn’t even know where MCV was. My sister, Kailee, and I drove to MCV, where they told me her BG was too high. “Her what?” Well, after a week at MCV, I learned all about diabetes. I didn’t know being thirsty was a sign.
How did you get connected to JDRF?
Through a volunteer that brought me a “Bag of Hope.” There was literature and all sorts of information inside but what stood out the most was the little teddy bear inside that had patches on its arms and legs to show Kailee where her injection sites would be. The volunteer and I became friends and she took me to the JDRF Gala. I met all the wonderful people at JDRF that were trying to raise money for a cure, I knew then, I had to get involved.
What made you stay involved with JDRF?
Pure and simple… I want a cure. The people at JDRF are all so dedicated to finding a cure.
How has JDRF impacted your life?
When a child or anyone gets diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, it is crucial for them and the family to have support.
Having a child or anyone diagnosed with T1D is really hard on them and whole family. There is so much to learn and the emotional aspect can be overwhelming. JDRF has so many ways to help lessen that burden. Their website is full of information and can even help get you in touch with another T1D family to help you through it.
Being a part of JDRF has given me the support I needed and the feeling that I am helping in the fight to find a cure.
What would you tell someone who wants to help but doesn’t have a direct connection to T1D?
They can call me. LOL. All kidding aside, there are so many ways to help. They can call their local chapter and get involved by helping with the gala, the walk, or maybe be the volunteer that delivers the Bag of Hope to a family- like they did for me.
Tell us about volunteering with JDRF
Starting a walk team-“Kailee’s Crusaders” was the “first step.” That led to me joining the walk team committee. I would take Kailee to the meetings, and soon, she was contributing to the committee as well. We help with the logistics, collect gift cards from restaurants and grocery stores as prize incentives, set up and tear down, help with registrations on walk day and call new family teams asking them if they need help with fundraising. Sometimes those calls turned into just talking with them and seeing how they were coping with having a child who was recently diagnosed with diabetes because it really does affect the whole family.
Kailee became a Fund-A-Cure kid and Youth Ambassador which led me to volunteering at the Spring Gala. Kailee would be a part of the entertainment – whether it was singing with Elliot Yamin on stage or making videos to show during the gala. She became a Fund a Cure Kid and a Youth Ambassador. At that time, I was helping with the kids, watching them till performance time, getting them to the stage for their performance, or with the signs for the Fund a Cure. For the past couple of years, my role has shifted from the kids to the silent auction items for pickup at the end of the night. We wrote many thank you notes to our sponsors over the years. We also helped with the walk leadership kick-off events and Dollar’s for Diabetes at Chik-fil-A by asking people in the drive-through line if they would give a Dollar for Diabetes. We even visited Congressman Eric Cantor in 2010 and asked him to support the funding for diabetes.
Kailee is now 20 and away at Christopher Newport University, but I continue to volunteer because she continues the fight every day. Volunteering for JDRF gives me a chance to give back, to help improve the lives of those with T1D. Meeting the families at the walk, the gala and talking to them, I know that we are on the right path.
Millions of people are affected every day and I feel as though this organization has given me a chance to improve their lives.
What does a cure mean to you?
It would mean-the world!
Connie’s Story and JDRF Monetary donation voting: