How the JDRF Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes Program Is Helping Children with Type 1 Diabetes: An Interview

JDRF is the largest charitable organization supporting type 1 diabetes research.

Through events and activities across its 96 U.S. chapters and 13 international affiliates, JDRF has raised more than $1.6 billion for diabetes research since it was founded in 1970. This research has improved understanding as well as treatment and prevention of type 1 diabetes.

One of these fundraising activities is the Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes program, which does so much more than raise money for research. We interviewed Jennifer Mylock, director of youth initiatives at JDRF, about the program.

How does the program work and what are its goals?

The Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes program is an educational in-school fundraising program, and we have two goals: Our first goal is to educate students about type 1 and type 2 diabetes as well as the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We also want to provide them with an opportunity to make a difference by raising money for type 1 diabetes research.

The way the program works is that once the school decides to hold a Kids Walk, they’ll work with one of our staff members or a volunteer. The first thing that they’ll do is pick two dates, ideally about two weeks apart. We can hold a Kids Walk any time of the school year; we try to work around the school’s schedule because they’re so busy. On the first date, a JDRF staff member or a volunteer comes to the school to do an educational kick-off, which is when they teach students about type 1 and type 2 diabetes. We talk about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, and then we go over safe and effective fundraising strategies for the students, which is really important; we don’t want them going door to door or anything like that. On the second date, the students turn in the funds in their collection envelope and they hold a Walk on the school’s campus.

How does it impact the lives of children with type 1 diabetes?

One of the things that I think are really important and beneficial for students who have type 1 and their parents/families is the safety element that is provided through the program. The teachers and fellow classmates gain an understanding of type 1 diabetes; they learn the symptoms of diabetes, and they even learn what a low blood sugar might look like. Because of that, students can feel a little safer at school. The second thing is that, if a student with type 1 is comfortable telling others about what life is like with type 1, they have the opportunity to become advocates for themselves and others impacted by the disease. They can do this in few different ways; a lot of times we’ll have kids participate by sharing their story or by answering questions during the kick-off presentation, and some choose to lead their school’s Kids Walk. It’s really cool and amazing to see their friends and classmates rally around them and make a difference. Our tagline is “all about kids helping kids,” so there are quite a few ways that this program does that.

Where is it available?

It’s all across the country, anywhere in the U.S., even if there isn’t a local JDRF chapter nearby. It’s such a turn-key program that teachers, even parent volunteers, can help implement with phone and email support from JDRF. We can certainly get some materials out there to them, and we’re still there to help every step of the way.

How long has the program been around?

The program began in 2003. It was created by two amazing volunteers in Austin, Texas. Three years after that, the program was raising over $240,000 down in Austin, and that really got everyone’s attention. Soon after, the program was launched nationally.

Each year we’ve learned a little bit more about working with schools and working with kids, and we add new resources, including educational materials like lesson plans and new fundraising tools. Last year, we created a new video that features three kids who have type 1 diabetes, and they share their stories. Nick Jonas, pro-snowboarder Sean Busby and Crystal Bowersox also make special appearances!

This year, we are really excited about a new incentive that we have: One of our goals is to raise more money online; we know that it’s effective and it’s safe, and we always instruct the kids to get help from their parents before going online. So what we’re doing is we’re giving away two Xbox Ones this year, and any student who registers online and sends 10 or more fundraising emails through their participant center, which they get when they register, will have an opportunity to win one of those Xboxes.

How many schools have participated?

The program is growing really quickly. Two years ago, in 2012-13, we had 800 schools registered. Last year we had just over 900 schools enrolled, and those schools raise over $2.5 million annually.

How can parents/students get their schools involved?

The first step is for the school to register, and they can do that by visiting kidswalk.jdrf.org then clicking on “register your school.” They’ll fill out a brief form that has their contact information and a little bit of information about the school, and then a JDRF staff member or volunteer will reach out to that school to plan the details for the campaign.

What are the incentives for schools and students who participate in the program?

Schools are interested in the education that we provide, and we really appreciate the partnerships that we have with them. We offer 10 percent of the total raised to be awarded back to the school. They can use that money for equipment, books, field trips – anything that they need for their school. It’s one of the things that set our program apart.

Students are very motivated to support kids impacted by type 1 diabetes. They can also earn what we call “difference-maker awards” for making a difference by raising money for research. They also have an opportunity to earn a banner to display at their school.

Click here to learn more about the JDRF Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes program.

JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence and a working plan to bring life-changing therapies from the lab to the community. As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $568 million in charitable research in 17 countries. For more information, please visit www.jdrf.org

Photo: Pixabay

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