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Forest Park cheerleaders hope to fight diabetes

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

Forest Park High School Cheerleaders want to help prevent juvenile diabetes from getting a tighter grip on their community.

The squad is partnering with the Juvenile Diabetes Association for an event that will raise funds for the association, and the squad, according to co-coach Diahann Fulwider.

Fulwider said the cheerleaders decided to create a juvenile diabetes public outreach event, because they have witnessed how squad member, Leon Butts, is affected by the disease. "Leon has suffered from the disease since he was 4, and we are honoring him," she said.

"I think it's kind of cool, because ... some diabetics said it is too risky for me to do sports," added Butts, about the event. "I think my team ... has accepted that I have diabetes."

The squad and association want "to educate the community about juvenile diabetes and how it affects youths today," said Fulwider. Participants will learn about the importance of diet and exercise, and how they can prevent some forms of diabetes, she said.

The event will take place today, from 9 a.m., to 2 p.m., in front of the high school, at 5452 Phillips Drive, Forest Park, she said. Activities include a 3.5-mile walk, performances from local cheerleading squads and a yard sale, she explained.

People, who would like to participate in the walk, must make a $5 donation, she said. The walk will take place from 9, to 10:30 a.m., around Forest Park High School and Babb Middle School, she added.

Squads set to perform include: the Forest Park High School Cheerleaders; the Forest Park Recreation Center's competition squads, and Babb Middle School's cheer squad, Fulwider said.

Those who want to sell items at the yard sale must pay $25 for a table, she added.

People will be able to purchase items, such as jewelry, clothes, makeup and food, and the proceeds will assist the squad with equipment and uniforms, and will help the Juvenile Diabetes Association find a cure to the disease, Fulwider said.

Butts, 17, said he has Type 1 diabetes, which is also known as juvenile diabetes. He said this form of diabetes doesn't allow him to produce insulin, and his blood sugar increases and decreases.

When he was diagnosed, Butts said, doctors told him the disease was hereditary. He said that even if diabetes does not run in the family, people can still develop it (Type 2 diabetes), if they follow an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

He said he is part of the cheerleading squad, and is captain of the school's wrestling and baseball teams. He also helps with the school's football team, he said.

He said he sees it as his duty to make sure fellow athletes know the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle to prevent diabetes. "Teens like to eat Burger King and McDonald's," said Butts. "That's not really healthy."

He said he works out for about three hours a day, seven days a week. His exercise consists of cardio workouts, weight-lifting, and yoga. But, he said, so much depends on a healthy meal plan.

Breakfast for him, he said, often includes yogurt with granola, toast and fruit. The lunch menu includes a turkey or chicken-breast sandwich, a salad and two servings of fruit. For dinner, it is often pasta, fruits and vegetables, he said.

When he feels the effects of the disease, he gets weak, lightheaded, his arms shake and his legs buckle, he said. If his blood sugar is high, Butts said, he takes insulin, and if it's low, he takes a glucose tablet.

"You feel like most of the time you want to be normal, you don't want to feel like the kid that someone has to always take care of," said Butts. "You have to make it 100 percent all the time," he said. "When you have diabetes, your blood sugar is not at tip-top shape."