WHITMAN — A trio of Whitman families with children affected by type 1, or juevenile, diabetes (T1D) are again lacing up their sneakers and leaning on “Panther Power” to raise funds for research in the annual JDRF One Walk on Saturday, Oct. 1 at the DCR Hatch Shell in Boston.
Friends are joining the Drier, Carew and Manning families from Whitman to participate in the walk to raise money that will help create a better future for the millions of people living with type 1 diabetes. Over the past years this group has donated more than $120,000 to help find a cure. The total fundraising goal for the JDRF One Walk Boston this year is $1,320,323 — and at $404,236.40 it is at 31 percent of that goal as of Monday, Sept. 19.
After the fundraising walk from 2 to 6 p.m., Oct. 1, the Panther Power team is hosting an appreciation fundraiser celebration after the walk at the Whitman VFW on Essex Street, to which the community is invited, featuring food, raffles, entertainment and fun.
Kathy Drier is well-versed in the impact of T1D. Her daughter Megan, 18, (now attending Emerson College) was diagnosed when she was 8 and her son JP, 16, was just diagnosed in May.
“It doesn’t run in our family so it was quite a shock,” Drier said. “We’ve researched, and it looks like only a 1:10 chance of a sibling also getting diabetes.”
She said a lot of what the families have learned indicates the environment can trigger a predisposition with which some people are born.
Tobey Carew’s daughter Hazel was 8 when she was diagnosed in January and Cailyn Manning’s 6-year-old daughter Charlotte was diagnosed in December. Charlotte and Hazel are related and live on the same street.
“I think it’s a huge lifestyle change,” said Drier. “What child wants to get a shot every time they eat?”
She noted that in her 12-household neighborhood there are three diabetics with T1D and, throughout Whitman, she has become acquainted with several families that are also affected — a situation that provides its own networking opportunities.
“Some of the children have been living with it for years as others are newly diagnosed and are fortunate to have such a wonderful support system from other families that have been affected with diabetes also in Whitman,” the families have written in a fundraising letter for the Oct. 1 walk and event.
With T1D, a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin — a hormone essential to turning food into energy. If you have T1D, you must constantly monitor your blood-sugar level, inject or infuse insulin through a pump, and carefully balance these insulin doses with your eating and activity.
“You have to keep track of all the carbs that you eat,” she said. “Whatever you eat, you have to counter with insulin.”
Her daughter has had to go on an insulin pump recently, Drier said, noting the pump comes with a device that delivers proper insulin levels based on carbohydrate intake.
Besides tracking food intake, diabetics also have to take care in regulating the amount of insulin they use, Drier said. Insulin levels that are too high are just as dangerous as levels that are too low.
“One of the reasons we’re walking is the improvements they’ve made since my daughter was diagnosed are amazing,” Drier said. “The long-lasting insulin, for one. When Megan was diagnosed, she was on such a regimented schedule as to what she could eat, when she could eat. She had to eat a certain amount of carbs every 2 ½ hours.”
The mothers said birthday parties, sleepovers and cookouts were every mom’s nightmare as they couldn’t always know what their kids were eating.
“It’s a learning curve,” Carew said.
Drier and close friend and neighbor Susan Colclough, whose son was also diagnosed with T1D 10 years ago, formed Panther Power for Dave and Megan to raise research funds. Soon after their first JDRF Walk, they met other families dealing with T1D and changed the name to simply Panther Power.
The team name has become a popular choice in Panther Nation.
“We’ve been one of the top 10 teams,” Drier said of the Boston walk’s 350-team event. “Our team has represented Whitman very well. This has been an amazing community.”
Panther Pride is a 159-member team with team T-shirts that have been popular sellers in town.
Can drives, golf tournaments, yard sales and other events have been used to raise funds in the past, but this year they decided on an appreciation fundraiser.
To donate, visit jdrf.org and search for team Panther Power.