For the sixth consecutive year, Cassie Westad plans to participate in the annual "Walk to Cure Diabetes" fundraiser that is scheduled later this month at the Mall of America.
For Westad, the walk is a personal thing: The 11-year-old Roseville girl has had Type 1 diabetes since she was four-and-half-years-old.
"We pray and hope for a cure," for Type 1 diabetes, said Tammy Westad, mother of the fifth-grader who attends Emmet D. Williams Elementary School. (Type 1 diabetes is when the body's pancreas does not make enough insulin to regulate sugar in the blood stream.)
The walk, which will raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, (JDRF) is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23. The walk annually raises about $2 million and attracts upwards of 20,000 participants.
Last year, Cassie and her team raised about $5,300 and hopes to raises at least $5,000 this year, said Tammy Westad.
To help Cassie with her fundraising, two Sports Clips hair salons (one in Shoreview, the other in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood) have pledged to donate $5 per adult hair cut and $3 per kid haircut for everyone who mentions they are helping "Cassie's Crew," Tammy Westad said.
That bit of corporate philanthropy was made possible due to Cassie's godmother Lisa Weikle, who is operations director for Sports Clips.
"Cassidy is my godchild," Weikle said. "She has had a rough go since being diagnosed with diabetes. The JDRF Walk at MOA is in February, it’s one of the largest in the country. When I approached my employer to see if he’d be willing to help the Westads and Cassie, he was thrilled to do so."
Weikle added, "Cassie is truly an inspiration and a fighter. She plays hockey and soccer for Roseville. "
Cassidy's family is very passionate about finding a cure for diabetes, Weikle said.
Cassie said she and her family discovered she had Type 1 diabetes after she was suffering classic symptoms, a thirsty dry throat and frequent urination. To control her diabetes Cassie is on an insulin pump and has to test her blood several times a day.
"I've gotten used to pricking my fingers (to test my blood)," Cassie said. But, she said it's still tough sometimes to test her blood so often, particulary during school.
Still, it's a necessary part of Cassie's daily routine because her blood sugar level widely fluctuates, going as high as 500 to 600 after playing hockey and dropping as low as below 70, which is usually considered the cut off for a safe low reading.
"The frustrating part is having trouble regulating (Cassie's blood level) well," Tammy said. "The lows (blood sugar readings) are just scary."
Tammy said a big benefit of the Diabetes Walk is that it lets Cassie know there plenty of other kid afflicted with the disease.