By Jeanne Sager
CLARYVILLE February 4, 2005 Theres something special about Kevin Krom and his friends.
Theyre 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 cant 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 thats 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.
Shes 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. Its hard for me to think of asking people for money every year people get bombarded with so many charities.
But its such a high maintenance disease, she explained. Really, there is no good disease.
Juvenile diabetes is scary, she said, because it hits kids when theyre 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 its 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 its not easy, Krom said.
He just wants to go out and be a normal kid, she noted.
Deirdre McHugh said its 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 its not that simple if he goes on a field trip, she or husband John have to go, or they have to assign Patricks 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. Its just every minute . . . I dont think many people realize how much is involved.
McHugh said theres a challenge for the family not to shield their child. But she doesnt want to put the responsibility on someone else either.
When Patrick made the principals list, he was invited on a trip to Wendys. 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 dont coddle him by any means, she said. But we dont go to Wendys that often for him to have to stand there in front of his friends, trying to count carbs . . .
Besides, she added, it shouldnt be the principals responsibility to make sure her son is eating right.
McHugh is very open about her sons disease its not something to be ashamed about, she said.
I want everyone who comes in contact with him to know, she said. Numbers are power.
Thats why shes gotten involved with the bike-a-thon.
These are good kids, she said. But theyre always attached to a bag, they always carry their juice, their testers, their glucose tablets . . . Its never just easy.
Lets 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.
Hes had it lucky sisters Keira and Morgan and brother Aidan dont 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 hes going through and prevent it happening to some other kid.
If you could have it for a week, and you didnt have proper training, you wouldnt be able to handle it, he said. But if there was a cure, the world would be rid of one less disease.
If newborns werent born with diabetes, they wouldnt 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 hes 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 thats 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.