This year, JDRF is excited to shine the Kids Walk School Spotlight on three deserving schools! Read on to see how they raised big dollars for T1D research and had lots of fun along the way!

School Spotlight: Vestavia West Elementary School

Vestavia West Elementary School Vestavia West Elementary School is home to 800 students grades K-3 in Alabama. The 2016-2017 school year was their fifth year hosting a JDRF Kids Walk and they raised over $10,500. In total, they’ve raised $41,420.67 for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research!

Sharman Martin, head P.E. coach, serves as the school coordinator. The work she does is personal, because her nephew was diagnosed with T1D when he was in third grade. They are really close and every year she leads the Walk in honor of her nephew and all the students with T1D whom she has taught over the years.

Every day in P.E. for the two weeks that the students are fundraising, Sharman plays music to build excitement and displays the students’ JDRF paper sneakers in the gym to remind them to keep fundraising. Vestavia West also helps promote fundraising by putting up the Kids Walk on their Facebook page—and by celebrating “Put a Cap on Diabetes” day where the students can pay $1 to wear a hat.

Sharman says, “We are a big school so, to me, it is amazing to see how our whole community chooses to come together like family for JDRF. When I see the kids out walking, they may not fully understand why they are raising money and walking, but they are learning compassion.”

There is one face at Vestavia West that really makes the Kids Walk personal. Third-grader Caden James was diagnosed two days after his second birthday. Once the overwhelming reality of this disease settled in, his family jumped head first into the JDRF world. His mom Stacy says, “I think the Kids Walk is a phenomenal resource for Caden James and the school to better understand T1D. With him being an athlete and spending five days in school, it gives them a better idea of what he deals with on a daily basis.”

Vestavia West Elementary School, you inspire us! A special thanks to Sharman Martin, Ford McGuffey and Dyan Staub for working determinedly to make JDRF Kids Walk an event loved by everyone involved!

School Spotlight: Carl A. Furr Elementary School

Carl A. Furr Elementary School Carl A. Furr Elementary School in North Carolina has 827 students in grades kindergarten through fifth. The 2016-2017 school year marks their third year of participating in the JDRF Kids Walk program and they’ve raised a total of $28,520 for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research!

Dede Wishon is the school coordinator for Carl A. Furr and she became so by having the “baton passed on” from former school nurse, Jaclyn Smith. Jaclyn spearheaded a Kids Walk three years ago in honor of her son, Jack, who lives with T1D. The school raised over $10,000 in that first year! Jaclyn loves the Kids Walk program because, “Kids not only get a chance to learn about T1D, but they dispel myths and see kids with T1D are just like them. I love the support and the spreading of awareness and passion… a cure will never come unless we have the right people motivated to find it.”

Now Dede and another teacher, Maggie Covington, plan the school’s Kids Walk each year. There are currently three students with T1D who inspire everyone to raise as much money as possible for a cure. During the two weeks between kickoff and Walk day, Maggie shares information about diabetes and invites guest speakers with T1D to spread awareness during morning announcements. The first year, Nurse Jaclyn and Ms. Covington kissed a pig and a goat as a reward to the students for raising $10,000. This year, Ms. Covington recruited players from the Davidson College Basketball Team to come in and celebrate the school’s success with their fundraising.

Carl A. Furr makes Walk day a real party! Teachers walk (and dance) with the students to music. Dede says, “You have to make it fun and you have to educate them, otherwise they aren’t going to raise this kind of money.” It’s clear that a lot of heart and compassion flow through this school!

Thank you Jaclyn Smith for starting this legacy at Carl A. Furr Elementary—and thank you Dede Wishon and Maggie Covington for carrying it forward. Your creativity and boldness inspire us!

School Spotlight: Alden Intermediate School

Alden Intermediate School 2016-2017 was the second year that Alden Intermediate School in New York hosted a JDRF Kids Walk. The first year, students in grades four through eight raised $8,898.64 to help create a world without type 1 diabetes (T1D). This year, they surpassed their fundraising goal by raising $9,113!

Alden began hosting Kids Walks because of a special student, Emily Eberth. Emboldened by her teacher, Denise Panek, Emily went to her mother for advice on how she could help raise money and support for people with T1D. Her mom suggested the Kids Walk program and encouraged Emily to ask her teacher to help her get the school involved. Denise loved the idea, and before they knew it, they were planning a Kids Walk!

When they started out, Emily was the only student at Alden Intermediate with T1D—but this year three more students are living with the disease. Denise believes that the teachers’ involvement and excitement is critical to the success of the event, because the students feed off of this energy. Students take part in fun events like a three-day “PENNY WAR” where the classes compete to lead the school on Walk day. They also hold dress-up days where students can make a donation to wear themed outfits—and staff can donate to “dress down”.

Denise says of Kids Walk, “I love how it brings the entire school community together in support of such an important cause and that the kids can relate to it so well. It isn’t good that we have four kids with T1D, but it helps other kids see they are helping their friends. And they want to help. Our school together gets to FEEL so much positivity, empathy and compassion. The FEELING is priceless!”

Students and staff of Alden Intermediate School—thank you for your passion to raise dollars and awareness for T1D research! A special shout out to the Kids Walk organizing committee of teachers: Denise Panek, Paula Au, Susan Bishop, Sara Cometto, Katie Ferrentino, Maria Gladstone, Amy Leon, Sharon Ludwig, Jen Silvestri, and Darlene Woitaszeki!

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