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Contributed Photo

Austin Zweck

Contributed Photo

Kevin Krom

Contributed Photo

Patrick McHugh

On a Journey To
Eradicate Diabetes

By Jeanne Sager
CLARYVILLE — February 4, 2005 – There’s something special about Kevin Krom and his friends.
They’re normal little boys – they like sports and the New York Yankees.
They have brothers and sisters and love to eat junk food.
But Krom, Austin Zweck and Patrick McHugh have to sit down and poke themselves with a needle before they join their friends on a basketball court.
They can’t reach for that second cookie – without looking at carb counts and reviewing their daily intake.
The fact is, all three are a little different from other little boys – they all have juvenile diabetes.
Now the boys – and their moms – are gearing up for a fundraiser aimed at raising awareness about a disease that’s sweeping the youth of America and maybe, just maybe, fund the research that will provide a cure.
Mary Beth Krom is putting together a bike-a-thon in Claryville, the second since the family learned in late 1999 that 11-year-old Kevin was a diabetic.
She’s been joined this year by the McHugh family from Grahamsville and the Zweck family from Liberty.
The event is set for May 15, but the families want to get the word out early – to get as many other folks involved as possible.
The last bike-a-thon was held in 2002, Mary Beth Krom said, and turn-out was great.
This time she hopes the community will be even more supportive.
“We just really want a cure,” Krom said. “It’s hard for me to think of asking people for money every year – people get bombarded with so many charities.
“But it’s such a high maintenance disease,” she explained. “Really, there is no ‘good’ disease.”
Juvenile diabetes is scary, she said, because it hits kids when they’re young – and they will live with needle sticks, insulin shots and dietary constraints for the rest of their natural lives.
“For every child with diabetes – even every adult – it’s a balancing act,” Krom said.
They have to get enough exercise but not overexert themselves. They have to eat enough sugar, but not too much.
The three boys all handle themselves especially well for kids their age, Krom said.
Kevin has accepted his disease, and he knows he has to test every day and receives sometimes up to five shots a day.
But it’s not easy, Krom said.
“He just wants to go out and be a normal kid,” she noted.
Deirdre McHugh said it’s the same story for 11-year-old Patrick.
The Tri-Valley fifth grader was on cloud nine when he learned that this was the year he and his fellow scouts could go to Boy Scout camp.
But Deirdre said it’s not that simple – if he goes on a field trip, she or husband John have to go, or they have to assign Patrick’s care to someone else.
“I want to be excited for him and say, ‘Yes, you can go,’ but in the back of your mind is ‘Can Dad go with him?’” McHugh explained. “It’s just every minute . . . I don’t think many people realize how much is involved.”
McHugh said there’s a challenge for the family not to shield their child. But she doesn’t want to put the responsibility on someone else either.
When Patrick made the principal’s list, he was invited on a trip to Wendy’s. Deirdre ended up shooting over to the fast food restaurant to help Patrick make his food choices, then disappearing when he wanted to get back to his friends.
“I don’t coddle him by any means,” she said. “But we don’t go to Wendy’s that often – for him to have to stand there in front of his friends, trying to count carbs . . .”
Besides, she added, it shouldn’t be the principal’s responsibility to make sure her son is eating right.
McHugh is very open about her son’s disease – it’s not something to be ashamed about, she said.
“I want everyone who comes in contact with him to know,” she said. “Numbers are power.”
That’s why she’s gotten involved with the bike-a-thon.
“These are good kids,” she said. “But they’re always attached to a bag, they always carry their juice, their testers, their glucose tablets . . . It’s never just easy.
“Let’s face it,” she said. “[Patrick] is a kid – when he comes home from school and everyone else is having a snack, he wants to have one too.”
Patrick said his diabetes can be “annoying.”
“Your fingers get sore,” he said. “But all the doctors are really nice.”
He’s had it lucky – sisters Keira and Morgan and brother Aidan don’t treat him any differently, and only one kid has ever teased him at school for being diabetic.
But Patrick said he wants to see people at the May bike-a-thon. He wants them to understand what he’s going through and prevent it happening to some other kid.
“If you could have it for a week, and you didn’t have proper training, you wouldn’t be able to handle it,” he said. “But if there was a cure, the world would be rid of one less disease.
“If newborns weren’t born with diabetes, they wouldn’t have to spend their whole life with diabetes,” said the precocious 11-year-old.
Rosa Zweck can relate. Her son, Austin, was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed.
Today he’s 7, and the family is still struggling to manage his disease. The second grader misses school frequently at the Liberty Elementary School, and he gets frustrated watching his older brother, Ryan, eating “forbidden” foods.
Fortunately, Rosa Zweck said, Austin has taken an active role in managing his own disease.
At 4 years old, he declared that he wanted to be put on the insulin pump, which gives diabetics freedom from having to give themselves shots.
“He said, ‘I want the pump, I want to be like other kids,’” Zweck recalled. “Now he does everything a little boy does – he just has to stop and check his sugar.”
Zweck said this bike-a-thon is as important for the diabetic kids as it is for the community.
“I want him to see the support that’s out there for him,” she said. “And I want people to have a place to come and support our kids, so they can be normal and feel normal again.”
The diabetic boys will lead the ride from the Claryville Firehouse on May 15.
Riders will have the choice of going 5, 13 or 26 miles.
Minimum registration for adults is $25 and $15 for children under 12, and 85 cents of every dollar raised will go directly to research for a cure.
Registration will be held at 2 p.m. with the ride beginning at 3 p.m. A raindate of May 22 has been set.
Krom is currently looking for volunteers, participants and sponsors. For more information, call her at 434-5237.
Donations can be sent to the Krom Family, P.O. Box 99, Grahamsville, NY 12740. Checks should be made out to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

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