JOHNSTON – The Girl Scouts from Greenville’s Troop 922 danced along the sidelines and offered words of encouragement to walkers in Sunday’s Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation annual fundraiser walk in Johnston to support family of troop members, who participated in the event.
Rachel Fontenault, mother of Scout Kerith Fontenault and a Smithfield resident, visited the home of Scout leader Dawn Wakim last Friday to discuss Type 1 diabetes with the Scouts.
Fontenault, 35, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 16 years ago. Her daughter, Ruth, 6, was diagnosed at 18 months of age. She told the Scouts who would later volunteer during the Oct. 6 walk about different treatments for diabetes and the warning signs of high and low sugar.
“Those were the things they would look out for during the walk. They were ready to hand walkers juice boxes if they looked like their sugar was low,” Fontenault said.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little to no insulin. For Fontenault and her daughter, it means continuous monitoring of blood sugar levels and being prepared to confront low blood sugar levels with sugar intake.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation works to find better treatments, prevention, and a cure for Type 1 diabetes through research funded through donations.
Type 2 diabetes affects insulin production in the pancreas, where the pancreas doesn’t create enough or the body is resistant to insulin.
Fontenault said she and her daughter have adjusted to diabetes but said the disease is not as simple as taking a pill or insulin and going about the day. She said triggers such as stress, excitement, and adrenaline can affect sugar levels. “It’s very constant. It doesn’t ever let up, especially with a little child,” she said.
The misunderstanding that it is as simple as diet and exercise can cause some people to be self-conscious about revealing the disease, Fontenault said. She added that many diabetes jokes can be hurtful and mean.
“It really affects some people,” she told The Valley Breze & Observer.
Fontenault said the troop’s support for her and her family is essential to them both.
“Ruth just loves all of them,” she said.
She said the troop is continuously supportive of her family and it helps keep them both in good spirits.
She and Ruth raised $500 for JDRF during the walk. In total, the walk raised nearly $150,000 toward a goal of $171,000.
Fontenault said educating the troop on people with diabetes and raising awareness helps youth with diabetes feel included. While Ruth is accepting of her diabetes, she said other people are alone in their illness. She said that’s where support groups such as JDRF and the women’s peer support group “PODS” come in.
Rena Richardson, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago, hosts the Rhode Island women’s peer support group for diabetics. She said the group meets monthly to discuss various topics ranging from testing equipment to various types of therapies.
She and members of the support group joined Rachel and her family in the JDRF walk on Sunday.
“Community is very important. It helps you feel normal,” Richardson said.