Preschool raising money to fund research for Type 1 diabetes

A Tabernacle preschool is getting its small students energized to help raise funds and awareness about an autoimmune disease.

The Grace Place Preschool at the Lord of Light Church (1 Winchester Court) will host a walk to raise awareness and funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., Nov. 14, in the school’s parking lot.

We have food and everyone gets involved and the kids get a packet where they can ask for a donation from their families,” said Deborah DeMarco, director at the preschool.

Members of the public, she added, can send donations to the preschool via either the organization’s website or by calling the JRDF’S Cherry Hill office at (856) 429-1101.

Kids are also given little sneakers to write their names on, which preschool teachers will then place around the school to show their support for the organization.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the body mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells, according to JDRF. The disease affects nearly 1.25 million Americans and is managed through insulin injections or a pump.

None of the children in the preschool has Type 1 diabetes.

I want to get the parents aware of the symptoms because a lot of times, the symptoms are misdiagnosed or they’re not caught at all,” DeMarco explained. “Usually when Type 1 presents itself, it looks like a virus or the flu.

Her 21-year-old daughter, Deanna, has Type 1 diabetes and was playing sports seven days a week, which DeMarco said belies the myth that a child or person gets diabetes because of poor eating other habits.

The disease, according to the JDRF, does not have a cure or cause. Symptoms DeMarco said parents should be aware of include lethargy, sudden weight loss, stupor and extreme thirst, among others.

Kids, she added, can be tested for the disease in a simple setting such as a doctor or school nurse’s office if they’re experiencing symptoms of the illness. The test is a needle prick of the finger that draws a small drop of blood.

Once the disease was confirmed in her daughter, DeMarco said they worked together with health professionals to learn ways to manage Deanna’s blood sugar levels and how to respond when they get too high or low.

Every child is different; every child will not react the same way that, say, my daughter does,” DeMarco added. “If they eat something, it might not help them, but it will help my daughter.

As DeMarco educates parents about the illness, she said the school also makes an effort to educate students, but not in the sense of pricking their fingers to test their sugar and glucose levels.

We just let [kids] know that they’re helping another child,” DeMarco said. “Our kids are very good about that and they’re very involved in the community, and that’s what they want to do.”

Last year, DeMarco said the school raised just over $1,000 for the foundation, with a goal each year of $1,000. Even without reaching that goal, she said, students  get information out to the public about the disease and inform parents on what to look for.

The funds raised for the foundation supplement various research projects into a cure for Type 1 and viable treatments for kids and adults. One of the most recent initiatives was the introduction of an insulin pump that DeMarco’s daughter wears.

“She wears a pump and it’s neat because she can link it to her phone and my phone, and it lets us know if her sugar is high or low,” DeMarco said. 

She hopes to continue the preschool’s four-year tradition of raising money for the organization and hosting walks to find an eventual cure.

In the event of rain, the baseball-themed walk will be held indoors. For more information, visit JDRF.org and search Grace Place Preschool.