Home Deptford News ‘One Walk’ for awareness, hope

‘One Walk’ for awareness, hope

Mark Joseph Boucher may be 26 years old and on his own, more than 1,000 miles away living in Orlando, Fla., but his parents still worry, as parents are wont to do no matter the age of their children.

For a while, Bonnie Boucher would still wake up in the middle of the night, out of habit. A mother of four sons, all between 36 and 18 years old now, it’s a wonder if she was ever able to put her mind to ease a dozen and a half years ago, when Mark Joseph was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Thanks to technology, Bonnie now barely has to lift a finger to see how Mark Joseph’s blood sugar levels are at any moment. The continuous glucose monitor, with a fully implantable sensor, is relatively new technology that only became iPhone-compatible (via the Dexcom app) within the last half dozen years.

“It’s amazing,” Bonnie said. “I can see what his blood sugars are, in real time. He wears it all the time. So I can see his blood sugars, I could hit it right now and see what it is. And you can set alarms.

“Since he’s 26 I turned off all of the alarms, but every once in a while I check. But it’s great for kids that are in school, because the school nurse has it and all of the alarms are set.”

As a school nurse – Bonnie works at Central Early Childhood Center in Deptford – the technology doubles as convenience in both her personal and professional lives. Advances in technology and treatments are often the result of increased funding, and it’s a reason the Bouchers have been very active with the South Jersey chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The JDRF One Walk, with the ultimate goal of living in a world without Type 1 diabetes, is taking place on Sunday, Oct. 28, at Camden County College’s main campus in Blackwood. You can log onto the chapter’s site to make a direct contribution toward one of the teams taking part in the walk.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly and has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing anyone can do to prevent it and there is no cure.

And the kids and adults who deal with it daily (or hourly, or minute by minute, really) look just like anyone else (it’s not a disease that you can physically see, unless you catch them administering insulin) but it is a disease that is fatal without the regular administration of insulin.

It’s why Bonnie and her husband Mark, who served as the South Jersey JDRF president for two years and on the board for more than a dozen years, will be taking part in the walk and have also spent their time and energies at various events throughout the year since their second son was diagnosed 18 years ago.

“It brings awareness,” Bonnie said of the walk, “especially when it’s a newly diagnosed family going to the walk with their team …”

“… and they see that many people there,” Mark added.

“And they see that many people there, and it takes you back a bit,” Bonnie said. “You see all of the support.”

“We’re all doing this,” Mark said. “You feel welcomed. Everyone is doing the same thing for the same reason.”

It gives all of the families, particularly the new ones who had their lives altered so suddenly with the diagnosis, a sense of security and unity.

“It gives you confidence and hope,” Bonnie said.

The JDRF One Walks are the organization’s biggest events for fundraising. They used to call it “the Million Dollar Walk,” back when Mark was president because of the amount of money it would bring into the foundation.

But there are other events and activities that JDRF runs throughout the year, both big and small. All are meaningful.

Like delivering a “Bag of Hope” to a recently diagnosed family, as Bonnie has done over the years. Included in the “bag” are education materials for the parents and, for the new Type 1 children, a teddy bear named “Rufus,” a diabetic-stuffed animal that doubles as a buddy to hug and also a fluffy friend who has his own injection sites.

“Kids love that,” Bonnie said.

And the deliverer of the “bag” also gives the new parents a literal shoulder to cry on, someone who can relate to what they’re going through at that time.

The Bouchers have been in the battle with JDRF long enough to answer just about any question such parents might have while their own kids deal with Type 1. But their family also provides a positive example of how such kids can continue to go about their lives and thrive, too.

In fifth grade, two years after his diagnosis, Mark Joseph went on a trip to Australia with People for People, without his parents. The family was reassured when they sent an email to a JDRF chapter in Sydney and received “pages and pages” of Australian families that would help if a diabetes emergency took place.

Mark Joseph currently works at Disney World as a zookeeper. He works with rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and alligators at Animal Kingdom.

Imagine telling a shell-shocked, scared 8 year old who had just been diagnosed with diabetes that he could work at Disney World one day? That might be even better than the teddy bear Bonnie brings to new families.

“They refer to it a lot as the JDRF family, and it really does become like a family to you,” the elder Mark Boucher said. “The walks always raise the most money more than anything. … It just has a tremendous impact on what we can do for research. Of course we’re always looking for a cure, but also to improve the lives of the people who have diabetes.”

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