Friday, 5 March 2010

Walk honors Kelso boy's struggle with diabetes

Walk honors Kelso boy's struggle with diabetes

The LaFave family of Kelso has been in numerous walkathons for juvenile diabetes research, but Friday's event at Coweeman Middle School was truly a family affair. It was organized by the older LaFave siblings to honor their younger brother's struggle with the condition.

The entire Coweeman student body and staff took turns walking around the gym Friday in three shifts to raise money for diabetes research in classmate Ryan LaFave's honor. Friends and family also took park, as well as the Family House Academy and the shift crew from Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue, where Ryan's dad, Dave LaFave, is fire chief.

Figures are still being tallied, but regional diabetes association officials working with the LaFaves think they'll break $5,000 by the time everything is said and done.

"That much money would be great," said 18-year-old Jake LaFave, who organized the walk with his twin sister Lacey. "It's cool to see everyone come together for one common cause."

Ryan, 14, was born with both Down syndrome and juvenile diabetes and recently struggled with non-diabetes related kidney problems.

The family has participated in a number of regional diabetes research fundraisers and organized two locally that raised $65,000 combined. So when Lacey and Jake started thinking about their required senior project at Kelso High School, it only seemed natural to center it on Ryan.

"It all just comes back to my brother," Jake said Thursday. "He's the whole reason (for this). He plays a big role in our lives."

Ryan, an eighth-grader at Coweeman, was born with diabetes, but the condition also can develop from a sedentary lifestyle or poor diet. The LaFaves said they wanted Ryan's classmates to know all the risk factors.

"We knew we wanted to do it at Coweeman because it was about Ryan and we wanted his friends to be aware and teach them how personal habits can bring this on," Lacey said. "Not everyone realizes that because he also has Down syndrome. But the difference is Down is just something you're born with, but diabetes can be brought on (by lifestyle)."

Ryan's mother, Amy LaFave, has organized the previous fundraisers. Friday, she said the hardest but proudest part was stepping back and letting Jake and Lacey handle things this time.

"It's a different role for me," she said, beaming as Jake, Lacey and Ryan all took laps around the gym Friday morning.

"This has really been the Lacey and Jake show," said Elizabeth Squires, special events manager with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Portland. "They've really rocked and rolled pulling this together."

Seventh-grader Savannah Casey took part in the march because her grandmother and several other family members have diabetes.

"It can make you really sick," she said in between laps Friday.

People with diabetes either don't produce or properly absorb insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin instead has to be replaced with regular injections - three a day for Ryan until he got an external insulin pump that regulates insulin as needed.

The LaFave's hope diabetes research will someday lead to a cure instead of just maintenance treatment. Friday, though, they were just happy to see the walk become a reality.

"I just think it's cool that the kids are all doing it for Ryan," Lacey said.

Jake added: "Even if we didn't raise much money it would just be good letting everyone know what diabetes is all about.".

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