Sayville Elementary School Shows Tremendous Support for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
On the first day of December, the entire student body at Lincoln Avenue elementary school in Sayville gathered for a very special reason. They, along with school staff and a group of parents, were all participating in the long-anticipated Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) 5K Walk to support the advocacy of Daniel Panaro, the Hauppauge teen who represented New York State at a national convention supporting diabetes research.
The planning process for this 5K began, Principal Dr. Michele LeBlanc explained, when “we decided to support JDRF shortly after one of our Lincoln Avenue families learned that their youngest child was diagnosed with Type 1 last spring; since March, our school has been planning a diabetes walk.”
With this upcoming event ever present in her mind, Dr. LeBlanc felt fortunate to have found during her summer vacation a Newsday article about the efforts of Daniel Panaro, a Hauppauge student diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. The article described how Daniel had gone to Washington, D.C. to attend a three-day JDRF Children’s Congress to raise awareness for Type 1 diabetes and to speak with members of Congress about advancing research for the disease. Seeing this accomplished young man as an inspiring role model for Lincoln Avenue, Dr. LeBlanc reached out to the Hauppauge school district in the fall to invite Daniel to be a guest speaker for the Ability Awareness unit run by Lincoln Avenue Physical Education teacher Coach Beth Bolger.
“A few years ago,” Coach Bolger related, “I created a unit called Ability Awareness. It has now grown into an annual schoolwide November focus. At Lincoln Avenue, we teach our students how we all have unique abilities, and that these unique abilities can be used to help other people and make our community great. Our students learn that we all face obstacles in our lives, but these obstacles do not define us. They make us stronger!” Dan Panaro’s visit was a big hit with the students and his message dovetailed well with the concepts put forth in the Ability Awareness unit which had designated the JDRF 5K Walk to be its concluding activity.
With the entire school, grades K-5 and their families, willing to walk to raise money for a cure, the students not only fundraised for JDRF all month long, they planned on donating all funds they raised in Daniel Panaro’s honor.
So, on that temperate December morning, the students stood in anticipation during the moving opening ceremony to applaud Daniel Panaro who made a special appearance and to hear the Lincoln Avenue VanderBorgh family express their gratitude for everyone’s support.
Once the eager students finally began the 5K—delighted by the “switchback” course set up by Coach Bolger and Mr. Matthew Slinkosky on the school grounds—they walked with purpose in their steps.
And thanks to the combined efforts of the Lincoln Avenue Site-Based Team for planning the event and the student government who under the guidance of Teacher Melinda Moran were also heavily involved, the JDRF 5K Walk was a great success. Although it may have taken months of planning, the concerted efforts of many hearts and hands brought to fruition an activity that was well worth the wait. In the end, Lincoln Avenue raised an impressive $5,100 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.