Small Feet, Big Steps
Kids in Friendswood, Texas, Move Their Entire Community to Fight Diabetes At School Walk
As Blake Lowe sat in the hospital with his youngest daughter, Gentry, who was 6 at the time, he felt as if the world had come to an end. While the rest of her first-grade class was participating in its annual School Walk for Diabetes, Gentry—diagnosed with diabetes less than a year earlier—was stuck in a hospital bed, unable to join her peers while she was fighting pneumonia.
Then the phone rang: It was Judy Shetler, Gentry's physical education teacher and the organizer of the walk. Shetler had called to let the family know that Gentry's entire elementary school was thinking about her during the walk, and that they had raised more than $28,000 toward finding a cure for diabetes.
For nearly 6 years now, the ADA School Walk for Diabetes at C.W. Cline Elementary has attracted the involvement of residents throughout Friendswood, Texas. The students who participate in the walk are escorted by the police department and are accompanied by the junior high school marching band. According to Shetler, the response of the local community has been overwhelming. "There has been so much interest; people were coming from everywhere [to the walk], parents got involved with their work, and companies were matching donations that were raised," says Shetler.
She attributes the community's interest in the walk to the close relationship that many people there have with the disease. "I'll ask, 'How many of you know a person who has diabetes?' and pretty much everyone will raise their hand," says Shetler.
The growing diabetes awareness in Friendswood has made life easier on kids like Gentry. The Lowe family forged relationships with other children in the school who have diabetes, creating an important support system.
"My wife will be up at night, talking to one of the other moms who has a child with diabetes, swapping ideas and stories," says Lowe. And the support isn't just flowing from parent to parent, but from child to child.
"From my experience counting the money raised [at the walk], I saw some envelopes that had 4 dollars and 30 cents—all in change, [including] about 80 pennies—and that to me said that it was from some child who saved their own money to contribute to the walk," says Lowe. Shetler agrees: "They know that it's going to help people with diabetes."