Diabetes Counts brings kids, parents together

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Ten-year-old Lily Carson, right, of Grand Junction watches as Natalie Bamford picks up a tiny diamond with a pair of curved end tweezers to place it by Lily’s name on the pendant for a medical alert necklace the girl is making at Angelo’s Pottery and Glass Studio, 2478 F Road, during a meeting of Diabetes Counts, a juvenile diabetes networking group. Bamford is an employee of Angelo’s.

It can be tough to be the only kid in class who tests blood sugar.

But nobody stares when a child pulls out a testing kit at Diabetes Counts, a local support group for kids with Type 1 diabetes and their parents. The group assembled in May and allows parents to chat while their kindergarten through 12th-grade children bond over activities and a shared condition.

Ten-year-old Lilly Carson said during a Diabetes Counts gathering Friday at Angelo’s Pottery that fellow students and her teachers don’t always understand Type 1 diabetes. But every child she meets at Diabetes Counts gets it.

“It’s nice not to be embarrassed. People don’t turn their heads and say, ‘What are you doing?’” she said.

“Everyone here knows what you’re doing when you’re testing your blood sugar,” said Caid Turner, 12. “It’s nice to have other diabetics to be around to share what it’s like.”

Turner was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on her 11th birthday. The diagnosis inspired her mom to start a support group. Summer Turner secured funding for events from the Community Hospital Foundation and created Diabetes Counts this spring. Diabetes Counts has a Facebook page, blog site at blogger.com, and a website at diabetescounts.weebly.com.

The group started with a parent meeting in May, hosted a barbecue in August and will have events at Colorado Mesa University Dec. 5 and Feb. 13.

Turner said the group is for parents of the kids, too.

“It’s nice to have other parents to call and say, ‘I’m having a really hard day. What did you do in this situation?’ A parenting book isn’t going to tell you that,” Turner said.

Turner said having a child with Type 1 diabetes causes a family to change its lifestyle, and she appreciates tips from parents who understand, for example, that kids with Type 1, sometimes called juvenile diabetes, can eat nonliquid sugar as long as they count carbohydrates.

Kelly Morse, who has a 14-year-old and a 6-year-old son, both with Type 1 diabetes, said it has been wonderful to find parent support and have a place for her younger son to meet kids his age with diabetes. Due to privacy laws, schools and doctors cannot tell parents which other kids in town have diabetes. That can make networking a challenge.

Morse said District 51 told her about 100 kids in the district have diabetes, but they are often spread out and may be the only one at a school with the condition.

“It can be very isolating to have a kid diagnosed with a chronic illness like Type 1,” Morse said. “Just seeing other kids, that there are other kids just like him,” is what her son likes about the group.

Diabetes Counts communicates with about 30 to 40 parents, according to Morse, and hopes to keep growing. The next event will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Dec. 5 at The Maverick Center at Colorado Mesa University and will include food, games and a visit with a Colorado Mesa football player who has Type 1 diabetes. Colorado Mesa nursing students will watch the kids while parents take the night off.

The event is for kids ages 10 to 18. To RSVP, contact Summer Turner at 434-6223 or Debra Bailey at 248-1772.


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