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From left to right: Quin Neal, ADA Senior Executive Director; Julie Blankenship, MISD Health Services Coordinator; Karin Klemm, MISD Health & PE Coordinator; and Sandy Peters, ADA SchoolWalk for Diabetes Associate Director at the first district-wide SchoolWalk for Diabetes at McKinney Boyd High School on September 21.
According to statistics cited by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes, and 79 million people have pre-diabetes. For some kids in McKinney ISD, those numbers are more than just statistics—they are a daily reality.
The district took steps in the fight against diabetes on Sept. 21 by hosting an ADA SchoolWalk for Diabetes at McKinney Boyd High School. The walk, which helped raise research funds and awareness about the disease, was part of MISD’s continuing effort to promote healthy eating, awareness and increased physical activity among students. 
Some 400 students, teachers and community members came out to support the effort. In all, the walk raised $4,345 for diabetes research, and students gained important insight about the disease and their own sugar consumption. 
“We currently have approximately 300 students with Type I diabetes, and the number of students with Type II diabetes has risen in the past several years,” said Julie Blankenship, MISD Health Services Coordinator. 
“We have had the opportunity to partner with the ADA before with individual campus school walks and with the North Texas Coordinated Health Symposiums,” Blankenship said, “but this is the first time we have done it on a District level. It was important to educate and increase awareness of diabetes for our staff and students district-wide.” 
MISD Superintendent Dr. J. D. Kennedy is a member of the Community Leadership Board for the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter of ADA. He was pleased with the support the walk received. 
“For a first-time event, the walk went well,” Dr. Kennedy said. “It is important to model and encourage exercise for our students. Early onset Type II diabetes is now even happening with teens. Good nutrition and exercise are essential for good health whatever age you are. Hopefully this walk will help encourage regular exercise.”
Regular exercise and healthy eating are topics stressed continually throughout the district—which currently boasts nine Healthy Zone Schools and four Healthy Zone In-Training Schools. But, during the two weeks leading up to the walk, middle and high school campuses provided students with information focused specifically on diabetes and the health problems associated with high sugar intake; elementary schools participated in a Food N’Me® Sugar Challenge, during which kids were encouraged to abstain from soda and sugary drinks for one week. 
And, let’s be honest. Sometimes, it is hard to make the healthy choice and say no to soda. Especially for kids. But, by Food N’Me’s calculations, MISD students avoided 2.6 tons of sugar during that week and saved an estimated $47,789 in drink purchases. 
During the weeks leading up to the walk, teachers got creative to encourage kids to participate and donate. McGowen PE coach Nick Relle started a “Don’t Fear the Beard” campaign, offering to shave his beard if McGowen raised at least $700. They did, and the beard is gone—a small sacrifice for a good cause.
It’s a cause that MISD campus nurses are quite familiar with. They provide vital, ongoing assistance to students with diabetes day in and day out. 
“The Registered Nurse (RN) in each MISD school clinic works closely with the families and students with diabetes on a daily basis,” said Blankenship. “The nurses support student success in school by providing diabetes care and serving as a liaison between school personnel, family, community and healthcare providers to advocate and facilitate the educational process.”  
Quin Neal, ADA Senior Executive Director, came out for the walk and was happy with the turnout for the first MISD district wide SchoolWalk for Diabetes. “The American Diabetes Association and Food N’Me® are pleased to be partners with McKinney ISD, working to positively impact the nutrition habits of students,” he said. “We are very pleased with this first year effort to raise awareness about sugar intake and the need to be mindful of dietary choices. We look forward to continuing to work with MISD to have a positive impact on student lifestyles.” 
“We will definitely do it next year,” said Dr. Kennedy. 
Which will be a great reminder of the daily challenge some of our students face. And for those of us who struggle with a sweet tooth...a reminder to put down the soda and walk a different way. 
For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007
Story and photo courtesy of Shane Mauldin
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