In partnership with a group from one of the area’s biggest employers the Scotland County NAACP Youth Council raised more than $2,000 for the American Diabetes Association.
On Thursday, members of the youth council met at the Maxton Campbell’s Soup Factory to hand over the funds they raised to representatives of the ADA. Youth council members were joined in their fundraising efforts by the Campbell’s Soup African American Network (CAAN). The groups sponsored a free community walk-a-thon and basketball game to raise awareness of diabetes last month.
Widespread and growing, the effect of diabetes on those of all ages in the United States – and especially the South – got the attention of Rena McNeil and the group of concerned young people she advises earlier this year.
“There is an increase in obesity and an increase in young people not getting proper exercise and getting diabetes, so this was important,” McNeil said. “And the young people were really interested in learning all they could.”
In learning all they could, McNeil said that members of the youth council came to realize the importance of spreading the word about diabetes and its preventability.
Looking to spread knowledge and share the importance of fitness in diabetes prevention and maintenance, the youth council organized the free community walk-a-thon for April 20 as well as a basketball game called “Hoops for Health.”
CAAN’s interest in joining the youth council’s efforts was natural, said CAAN Chairperson Barbara Nicholson.
“We actually have a parent in our group who has a child with diabetes. And the goal of our organization is to do all we can to make our community better – and Campbell’s mission is to help prevent obesity and this disease. That’s why we were eager to get involved. We had an employee who was concerned about her babies,” Nicholson said.
That employee, Jannie Cole, said being personally touched by the illness made her acutely aware of the importance of spreading knowledge.
“At first we didn’t recognize the symptoms (in my son),” Cole said. “Awareness is very important. Now that the children and the school system know about my son’s diabetes, they’ve been very supportive. The children have even been helping him make (healthy choices) for lunch,” Cole said. Her son has Type I, juvenile diabetes.
Receiving the over $2,000 donation on behalf of the ADA were Paulette Becoat (Special Events Manager, ADA) and Alicia McGee (Public Relations Chair for “Step Out”).
“This is a wonderful gift,” said Becoat, adding that she hopes that the young people involved in the youth council and those informed by their event will come to understand the value of physical activity.
“Kids today are more inactive than we were as kids. They stay indoors working out those thumbs on video games rather than working out their legs outdoors,” Becoat said.
When working in the community, Becoat said that she is often surprised how little people know about the disease – even those it afflicts.
“Some people still think that you can eat a piece of cake and then go take your insulin shot and that somehow cancels it out. That’s when people go into diabetic comas.
“Recognizing the symptoms of diabetes is also important. If you’re losing weight and you don’t know why, that is one sign.”
According to Becoat, the Southern diet is particularly troubling to those working to combat the spread of diabetes.
“With how much we love fried foods and good sweets, (our cuisine) isn’t helping,” she said. “The ADA actually has a cookbook that offers alternatives to our Southern cooking.”
Set to take place at North Hills in Raleigh on October 26, the ADA’s annual “Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes” will take the diabetes awareness message to the streets.
“The best thing about the walk is the support. People with diabetes or with family affected by it, when people come out for our ‘Step Out’ event those people are rallied around, and they come feel camaraderie and support,” McGee said.
During the walk those suffering from diabetes or those with diabetic family members wear red hats indicating their status as “Red Striders.”
“We are also definitely looking for a cure,” McGee added. “In the end, diabetes in many cases is preventable. It’s something that can be avoided by eating healthier.”