Stuckmeyer’s Plants & Produce recently held a fundraiser to help a local family purchase a diabetic alert dog for their two young sons.
Jenny and Jacob Childerson have been managing their son’s condition for several years now.
According to Jenny, 7-year-old Wilbur was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 14 months old. 2-year-old Wiley was diagnosed with the disease in early September this year.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that prevents the pancreas from producing insulin for the body.
Wilbur was also diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication most common in people living with type 1 diabetes that causes the body to produce excess blood acids due to a lack of insulin.
Managing blood sugar and glucose has been difficult at times for the two small young boys who are very sensitive to their condition, Jenny said.
“Despite wonderful advances in technology, the disease is very unpredictable, especially in small bodies that are really sensitive to insulin and really sensitive to the food they eat, sudden changes in blood sugar can happen very unexpectedly and can be very dangerous.” Jenny said.
While both boys have insulin pumps and glucose monitors, they both still require “vigilant monitoring 24/7” to prevent their blood sugar from getting too high or too low, as she describes it.
“Having two children with diabetes is very difficult,” Childerson said. “It means a lot of sleepless nights for my husband and me. This means very few childcare options. This means extra vigilance during sick season, as diabetes does not play well with other illnesses. And so having two kids really took the wind out of us when we felt like a handle.”
Faced with these challenges, the Childersons recently began considering getting a diabetic dog.
According to Jenny, this type of dog is a highly trained service animal that can often detect changes in blood sugar more quickly and reliably than a machine.
Service dogs like these can often cost around $25,000, depending on their training and where they are purchased, Jenny said.
Despite the medical importance of such an animal, Jenny said the family’s insurance wouldn’t help pay for a service dog.
“Our insurance won’t cover any part of a diabetic dog, and often insurance doesn’t really cover all of the technology we rely on,” Jenny said. “It’s just one of the realities of living with diabetes.”
So while the Childersons had trouble finding the necessary funds on their own, Jenny said they were able to rely on “some wonderful friends in the community.”
Jenny said they became friends with their neighbors, the Stuckmeyer-Vincents, thanks to the friendship between their daughters Lola and Wilbur.
Katie Stuckmeyer already knew enough about the Childersons’ struggles with type 1 diabetes to know how much they needed to be vigilant and care for their boys.
When she heard about the family’s intention to try to adopt a dog to care for their young son, Katie said she was eager to help.
“I had the first thought about my daughter’s best friend, Wilbur, the oldest, that it would be great if we could help them,” Katie said. “What could we do for them and make things a little bit easier for them?”
The result was a fundraiser held at the Stuckmeyer family farm.
Jenny and Katie said the event featured more than 150 donated items, pumpkin painting and a bake sale, including a raffle that included chili and hot dogs.
Along with the help of the Monroe County Neighborhood Service House, Cathy said the event was a huge success.
“It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of people who were friends, family and customers,” Katie said. “Overall, it was a successful day. We exceeded our goal.”
Jenny expressed her gratitude to the community for coming to the event and helping the family.
She added that while diabetic dogs can take about 18 months to train, the latest fundraiser won’t necessarily lead to instant gratification, but it has led to something to look forward to.
“We are very grateful to the community for making this happen,” Jenny said. “We couldn’t have done it alone.”