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Raising awareness for juvenile diabetes

Six-year-old Nick Corbin talks about the upcoming Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk with mom and first grade teacher Jenny Corbin in her classroom at Century Elementary. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)

Local educators and health professionals are getting the word out to the Park Rapids area about diabetes.

Following a week of raising awareness and educating the public on type 1 and type 2 diabetes a Park Rapids Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) community walk will be held Saturday, March 25 at Century School. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. with the walk 9 to 11 a.m.

Molly Aukes, a Century Elementary physical education teacher, is one of the organizers of the walk and says the week of education, awareness and fundraising for type 1 (T1D) and type 2 (T2D) diabetes research began as a discussion within the department.

"We all have or have had students with T1D and this will be a fact-filled week that will allow kids and families to learn together," she said. "The education and awareness is our main focus, but the fundraising is critical as well as all the money raised will go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for research."

The community is invited to join the School Walk to Cure Diabetes on March 25 to hear from kids and adults living with T1D and T2D, visit booths with information from community partners including Essentia Clinic, CHI St. Joseph's Hospital, Lions Club, Coborns and Novo Nordisc.

Tia Kocka, certified diabetes educator and certified bariatric nurse at St. Joseph's, is helping to raise awareness and educate the community.

"This is a great opportunity to educate the kids at the school and the community on diabetes, both type 1 and type 2," she said. "There are a lot of misconceptions about kids with type 1 diabetes; for example, that they can't have any sugar. People with type 1 diabetes are normal healthy people, but they have to be their own pancreas by delivering the correct amount of insulin for the amount of carbs in the foods they eat."

Type 1 typically occurs in early adults and younger children; however, can occur at any age of life. The pancreas is attacked and no longer makes insulin. A person with type 1 diabetes needs to give themselves insulin via insulin pens, needles or insulin pump to stay alive.

Type 2 diabetes can occur at any age, typically age 40 or older.

"We, as a nation, are seeing a rise in children with type 2 diabetes, in large part due to inactivity and obesity on the rise," Kocka said. "This type of diabetes occurs due to insulin resistance. A person's pancreas is still working, it just doesn't make enough insulin and the body is resistant to using the insulin."

A person with type 2 diabetes can sometimes manage with diet and exercise alone, oral medications and insulin, if needed.

Money raised for JDRF goes toward diabetes research, and Kocka points out, the research has allowed for many advancements in new technology to make life easier to manage type 1 diabetes, with JDRF's ultimate goal to find a cure.

Living with diabetes

Century Elementary first grade teacher Jenny Corbin and husband Evan found out about four years ago their little boy, Nick, had diabetes.

Nick is a six-year-old kindergarten student at Century, and the family will be participating in the local JDRF walk. They've done the JDRF walk in Minneapolis the last few years and are looking forward to the Park Rapids walk.

"It's nice to have one more local. A lot of people will be there and it really gives the kids something to look forward to, classmates and friends can take part," Jenny said.

When Nick was 2½ years old, he was sick and Jenny said they had no idea what was going on at the time. Nick was lethargic, took long naps and his appetite was gone. He was extremely thirsty and all he wanted to do was drink, which led to a lot of bathroom breaks, Jenny recalls. The signs were there and they suspected diabetes. Nick went to the emergency room in Staples as a "pretty sick little boy" and that's where it was confirmed he had type 1 diabetes.

Now Nick has an insulin pump which administers insulin and manages blood sugar throughout the day. He sees a pediatric endocrinologist in St. Cloud every three months to look at his blood sugar average and make adjustments to the pump as needed. Other than that, Jenny says, Nick is like all the other kids his age. Part of her participating in the education week and community walk is to help people better understand diabetes and help clear up any misconceptions.

"It's nice to see the support for the kids and raise awareness," Jenny said. "Treat him like a normal kid. I worry, is he going to be excluded from things? I worry about him being left out. He's still a happy, healthy kid and we want to keep him that way."

That happy, healthy kid will be wearing his Superman cape for the Park Rapids walk on March 25.

Support groups

CHI St. Joseph's Health hosts a D1 Kids Club every second Monday of the month from 6 to 7 p.m. Family and friends are welcome to the meeting which promotes knowledge and fun for the kids with diabetes.

The Corbin family attends this group, and Jenny says it's a great time for kids and parents to learn about diabetes and participate in activities.

"For parents, it's nice to share tips and ideas. It's nice to be with people that understand it and know what you're going through."

Another diabetes support group also meets at St. Joseph's the second Tuesday of the month from 9 to 10 a.m. with a variety of topics and speakers featured.

For more information contact Tia Kocka at 218-255-3684 or