Special to AFN

It was Christmas 2009 and the Schapler family – Peggy, Rick, Tylee and Davis – was in full-blown holiday mode.  

The tree was up, the presents were wrapped, the house was decked and the family was ready for a trip to the Polar Express.  Davis, then 2 years old, had a cold, so Peggy decided to take him to the pediatrician prior to the trip.  

The doctor’s visit was also an opportunity for Peggy to discuss other health concerns she had noticed in Davis in recent weeks.

Davis was showing signs of increased urination, irritability and excessive thirst; all of which are signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes (T1D).  Davis’ doctor tested his blood sugar three different times with the meter reading HI, which meant his blood sugar was well over 500; the average range is between 80-120.

The doctor immediately sent the family to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. It was at that moment, the journey to turn T1D into “type none” began for the Schapler family.

Peggy will often tell people that T1D picked the wrong family because she has made it her mission to raise funds and increase awareness of T1D ever since that life changing day in 2009.

 “T1D changed our lives forever. It is our new norm. Davis and our entire family have T1D,” Peggy said.

Peggy realized right away the lack of public awareness around the signs, symptoms and treatment of T1D.  

Friends and family members thought it was a short-term illness, not a lifelong illness.

T1D typically shows up in children and young adults and it’s a disease they do not outgrow and will not go away. It accounts for 5-10 percent of all people with diabetes and is the result of a non-functioning pancreas that doesn’t break down insulin.

 Type 2, on the other hand, can be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle which includes maintaining a healthy weight, eating sensibly and exercising regularly.

Upon Davis’ diagnosis, the Schapler family was introduced to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which funds research that transforms the lives of people with T1D and they won’t stop until they find a cure.

Its mission is to turn Type 1 into Type None.  In the meantime, JDRF continues to drive scientific progress that delivers new treatments and therapies that make day-to-day life with T1D easier, safer and healthier. It is the only nonprofit organization that contributes 80 percent of all proceeds to research for a cure.

JDRF’s Desert Southwest Chapter is the local arm of fundraising, events and education for T1D.  One of its signature programs is a weeklong camp for local T1D children, age 8-15, in Prescott.

Every summer campers descend upon Camp Soaring Eagle where they come to play and experience the healing power of laughter. Executive Director Paula Boca-Bommarito, describes camp as “an opportunity for children living with the enduring chronic illness of T1D to make lifelong friends and it allows them to not feel so alone in their journey.”

Since 2010, the Schapler family has raised over $155,000 for JDRF. They do this through a variety of fundraising opportunities.

The family created and hosts an annual chili cook-off with silent auction along with organizing golf tournaments, sneaker sales, corporate walk sponsor donations and other fundraisers. In 2016, Peggy received the JDRF’s Champion of Hope award and Tempe Elk’s Lodge Citizen of the Year Award for the family’s’ fundraising efforts.  

One big fundraiser the Schapler family participates in is the JDRF One Walk that brings thousands of families and participants together each year.

People can make a donation to Davis’ Hope team for the upcoming walk on April 29 at Sloan Park in Mesa at walk.jdrf.org and donate to the Davis Hope team fundraising page or team captain Peggy Schapler.

Peggy has found the most efficient form of fundraising to be her membership in 100+ Women Who Care Valley of the Sun.  

She nominated JDRF and is fortunate to have received funding from the Ahwatukee group twice in the past two years. In February, Peggy delivered $11,200 on behalf of the group’s members. The donation will send numerous kids to camp in Prescott this summer.  

“If you ask people with T1D, they will tell you it is a daily challenge and can be life-threatening. They endure it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year...it never goes away,” reflected Peggy.

“Davis is our hero as he endures a minimum of six daily blood sugar checks accompanied by a minimum of 5 shots, aka "pokes" of insulin a day in order to stay alive,” she added. “He cannot eat, sleep, or play sports without thinking about his T1D.”

For more information on T1D: JDRF.org.  The next meeting of 100+ Women Who Care Valley of the Sun is May 2 in Ahwatukee.

Kim Tarnopolski is chief community builder for 100+ Women Who Care Valley of the Sun. Information: 100WWCValleyOfTheSun.org.

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