By Anna Correa and Aminata Fall
As the rhythmic sounds of the guitar and castanets fuse under a dim red light, 11 year-old, Antonio Fernandez, sat in his father’s busy Spanish restaurant, Sangria 71, in Commack, alongside his family and relatives.
Family friends chatted and exchanged jokes in Spanish lingo, picking up their skirts to join the Flamenco dancer on the small wooden platform, while libations brought out the laughter and youth of the older crowd in the room.
If it wasn’t for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) sign in the upper left-hand corner of the room, the scene would have appeared to look like a family get together, but, it was actually Antonio’s fundraiser for the JDRF One Walk on Saturday, Oct.13. The dinner raised at least $2,385 of the $10,180 raised for “Tonio’s Purpose,” the family’s fundraising team.
“My son Antonio was diagnosed April 19, 2017. It changed our whole life. Antonio had to learn how to manage his blood sugar. He’s currently on an insulin pump, which has been a life changer,” Felicia Fernandez, Antonio’s mother said. “Without funding from JDRF all of this would not be possible. ”
While standing in 40-degree weather, drizzling rain, a gloomy sky and chilly winds, a crowd of 5,000 people with banners of different colors and emblems paraded down Eisenhower Park, in East Meadow, on a Saturday morning with team mottos such as “Diabetes picked a fight with the wrong girl!” and “Type ONE to type NONE.”.
“A lot of our teams here today are family teams but we also have tremendous support from our vendors and sponsors that are here today.” Kelly Borzell, Associate Executive Director of the New York City/Long Island Chapter of JDRF, said. “The corporate community also comes down in a very strong way to support today’s event.”
The JDRF One Walk is part of the organization’s five walk program in both New York City and on Long Island in which $3 million are raised for Type 1 diabetes research. The One Walk in Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, raised a total of $525,154.
The American Diabetes Association defines Type 1 diabetes as a chronic condition and autoimmune disease, that affects 5 percent of people with diabetes. The pancreas produces little to no insulin and the absence of insulin can result in high blood sugar.
The cost of raising a child with diabetes ranges from $13,000 to $ 20,000 a year and depending on the insurance, they either cover the whole costs or partial costs, Director of the Center of Diabetes Rights at Eisenburg & Baum LLP, Daniel Phelan, said. Certain parts of the dexcom, a glucose monitoring system used to manage diabetes, have to get replaced every couple of days or months. The monthly supply of a box of sensors can cost up to $300 to $400.
Some of the issues presented by Mr. Phelan are an everyday reality for Antonio and other kids suffering from diabetes.
“ We pay a pretty high co-pay. They [their insurance company] pay some,” Fernandez said. “ Unfortunately a lot of kids can’t even have a dexcom because that’s how expensive it is, even if the insurance helps you out.”
Beyond the insurance problems, Fernandez says her son needs to eat three meals a day and have snacks on him. He has to check his blood sugar throughout, sometimes during basketball games.
As of 2017, the organization funded research in the hopes to find a biological cure for Type 1 diabetes. Their recent research called GARBA may be able to produce glucagon in the pancreas converting alpha cells to beta cells, which may lead to the cure.