Local couple encourages walkers to take up cause
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
He plays rugby.
She loves fashion merchandising.
She graduated from Heritage High School.
He’s a graduate of William Blount High.
She’s in school in Memphis.
He’s here at home in East Tennessee.
But on April 28, the boyfriend-girlfriend couple of Mason Howard and Kara Moore, who are both 21, will be on the same team, fighting a medical condition they both know too well.
Howard was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was in the second grade. On Saturday, he and Kara will join hundreds of others in the 22nd annual Walk to Cure Diabetes to be held at the World’s Fair Park in Knoxville. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk gets underway at 10 a.m.
Family and friends of this Blount County couple will walk with them under the name The Champs. Moore has designed the team T-shirt and is raising awareness and funds for this important cause as she also completes her studies at the University of Memphis in fashion merchandising. Her graduation date is spring 2013.
Learning about the disease
Moore and Howard have been dating for two years, and when Moore found out her boyfriend had diabetes, she wanted to learn more about it. She was a student at Pellissippi State Community college at the time and did some class papers on the subject.
“I can remember after completing one of my papers, calling Mason one night and just crying,” she said. She had researched his disease and read about all of the side effects — blindness, loss of limbs, heart problems and more. “I was just dumbfounded to learn all of that and how many people have diabetes.”
So last year, Moore and her mom, Kim Moore and Howard’s mom, Vickie Howard, all participated in the Walk to Cure Diabetes. Mason was out of town playing rugby and couldn’t participate. He will do so this year.
Howard said he remembers being diagnosed with diabetes as a small child and what a struggle it was in the beginning. He checks his blood sugar levels four times a day. He wears an insulin pump to keep his levels stable. A school nurse at Lanier Elementary helped him manage his condition in the beginning, he said.
Moore said she remembers a couple of episodes with Howard that really scared her. One was during a football game at the University of Memphis. Moore said his blood sugar had spiked too high, causing his vision to blur. Another time they were at church together when Howard became ill and she had to go find him something to eat.
A voice in the crowd
Through all of this Moore has become very proactive when it comes to talking to others about this disease and the need to find a cure. She also participates in a Walk to Cure Diabetes in West Tennessee. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walks are held in more than 200 cities worldwide. Nearly 500,000 people nationally walked last year and raised $86 million for research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes.
An estimated 285 million people are living with this disease, according to the World Diabetes Foundation. By 2030, that number is expected to be 438 million, or almost 8 percent of the adult population. The largest age group currently affected is between 40-59 years. About 1 in every 400 children and adolescents has diabetes.
Last year, Moore held a purse sale to raise money her team. She took in $1,500 for the cause. Her goal this year is $2,000. There are two events lined up: a Wild Game Dinner on May 5 at Chilhowee View Community Center and a Wash for a Cure on May 12 at AutoZone on West Broadway in Maryville.
Howard is a student at Pellissippi State and has also attended UT. He plans to become an FBI agent. First he will earn a degree in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. He would like to become a police officer here in his community after graduation. Moore said his real dream was to join the military but that wasn’t possible due to having diabetes.
Support to win
This couple’s churches, East Maryville Baptist and New Providence Primitive Baptist, are supporting them in this event.
When Moore graduates next spring, she would like to come back to Maryville and open a boutique. Donating a small percentage of her sales to JDRF is something she would love to be able to do.
Moore doesn’t eat sweets or drink sugary sodas because of Mason. She said she wants to be a good influence on him as he battles this disease that affects so many. Howard is grateful for her dedication to the cause and her understanding now of what life is like with diabetes.
The Champs team T-shirt was all Moore’s idea. She make it orange for UT and put references to rugby on it, along with JDRF. It will be part of the T-shirt contest at the walk.
“I wanted something that said Mason all over it,” she said. “You look at it and it is a piece of him. All aspects of him are on the shirt.”
She is hopeful more people will want to join The Champs and also donate to this cause. “I am very passionate about this,” Moore said. “This is something that Mason has to live with every day. Every penny I raise will help him and other people like him.”