The Watchung school community is rallying around one of its own while also raising research dollars to cure Type 1 diabetes with a fun and educational event April 14.
The school community will participate in JDRF Kid’s Walk with a gathering that will include a live DJ, food and other activities donated by local businesses. The driving force behind the effort is Conner Andrews, a 4th grade student at Watchung who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just before entering 1st grade.
The school community — students, parents, staff and the school principal, Anthony Grosso — has been inspired by Conner to learn more about the disease and the effort to find a cure.
The event will be from 10 a.m. to noon on April 14.
At a recent school assembly in support of the event, Conner told students gathered in the school gymnasium about the continual challenges of living with type 1 diabetes. He described himself as an average kid who loves sports.
“But one thing is different about me,” he told the students “I have type 1 diabetes.” He said he must test his blood sugar throughout the day and take shots of insulin all the time “because my pancreas doesn’t work.”
He called on students to help raise research dollars: “We won’t stop until we turn type 1 into type none. And we can’t do it without your help.”
Danny Zinn, a 15-year-old Watchung alum who also has type 1 diabetes, joined Conner on the stage and told his story of living with the disease.
A Montclair restaurant also has been inspired by Conner: Taqoria Mexican Street Kitchen on Bloomfield Avenue. The owner, Vishal “Sean” Patel, met Conner and was so impressed with his positive attitude about living with type 1 diabetes that he is donating food for the April 14th event. He met Conner shortly after he opened his restaurant.
“I was impressed with Conner’s fighting spirit, resolve, humor and overall energy as he lives everyday with this chronic disease,” Patel said. “At Tacoria, we’re thrilled to support the JDRF Kid’s Walk and we’re so proud of Conner.”
Each day, 40 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States alone. While diagnosis frequently occurs in childhood and adolescence, it can and does strike adults as well. Children who have T1D will never outgrow the disease. To stay alive, they must take multiple insulin injections or use an insulin pump, and they test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers about six times a day, even through the night.
Visit Conner’s fundraising page here.
Conner’s mother, Lourdes Andrews, said the outpouring of support from the school community for Conner and the effort to cure type 1 diabetes has been overwhelming.
“I am so thankful to Watchung Principal Anthony Grosso,” she said. “And also to Conner’s teacher, Mrs. Christen Berman-Schiralli.”
Mrs. Berman-Schiralli said supporting the walk was an easy decision.
“When Mrs. Andrews asked me if I would like to get involved and help
with the JDRF Watchung Kids Walk, I thought it was a no brainer. Why
wouldn’t I!” she said.
Mrs. Andrews said she also supports helping Conner’s fellow students learn about T1D.
“Living with this disease can be stressful and never-ending. You cannot take a day, even an afternoon, off. Sometimes it breaks my heart to see what Conner deals with every day,” she said. “The way the Watchung school community has embraced Conner and the fight to cure this disease gives me so much hope.”
She believes a cure may come before Conner goes to college. “Conner said, ‘Who will wake me up in the middle of the night to test my blood when I’m in college?’ It brought me to tears. We really need to find a cure for this disease,” Andrews said.