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TODAY news for Thursday, February 11, 2008

Loma Linda University Medical Center news

Young fundraiser raises $11,000 for diabetes research

Gaven Enos, pictured with his mother, Ingrid Johnson, raised more than $11,000 for diabetes before his 10th birthday.
Gaven Enos, pictured with his mother, Ingrid Johnson, raised more than $11,000 for diabetes before his 10th birthday.
At first glance, Gaven Enos seems more like an average 10-year- old boy than a big-time fundraiser, but first impressions seldom tell the whole story.

Gaven is in fourth grade at Sitting Bull Elementary School in Apple Valley, where he “kind of likes” science and reading, but “LOVES!!!” recess. In his free time, he enjoys swimming, basketball, sports in general, bicycle riding, and playing computer games. But his very favorite thing to do is riding his red 110cc motocross bike.

In fact, Gaven likes riding so much that when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he doesn’t hesitate a second. “A dirt bike rider,” he grins, “and a mech­anic.”

What really sets Gaven apart from his peers is the fact that when he turns 10 on February 26, he will already have raised more than $11,000 for charity. Not many kids can say that, but that’s exactly what Gaven has done in the last four years.

Even though he could legitimately brag about raising all that money for charity, Gaven probably won’t. He’s polite, just a tad shy, and not prone to boasting. He leaves the horn-tooting to other people like his mom, the Apple Valley Optimist Club, and the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce.

Good thing, too, because those folks are bragging about Gaven on a much grander scale than he could ever do on his own.

Take the Apple Valley Optimist Club, for instance. After Gaven charmed the group as speaker at one of their meetings
Gaven lofts his 110cc red motocross bike over a small jump in his backyard. He wants to be a bike rider and a mechanic when he grows up.
Gaven lofts his 110cc red motocross bike over a small jump in his backyard. He wants to be a bike rider and a mechanic when he grows up.
last year, not only did members donate lots of money, but one of them nominated Gaven for the “Person of the Year” award of the Victorville Daily Press. So did someone from the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce.

Apparently the judges thought it was a great idea, too, because Gaven won the award for 2007! As a result, he raised lots of awareness and money for his favorite charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foun­dation. But the folks at the Optimist Club weren’t finished. They’ve also thrown fundraisers in his honor to raise money to help end diabetes, the disease that afflicts Gaven and several members of his family.

His mom, Ingrid Johnson, doesn’t believe in pushing her son, but takes an active role in helping him think through what he wants to do.

“Gaven does this because he wants to,” Ms. Johnson says. “His grandfather, who didn’t take very good care of himself, died from diabetes. His father has diabetes, Gaven’s got it, and I do, too. So do several of his uncles and aunts. It’s a real family affair. He’s been interested in finding a cure since he was able to communicate. After his grandfather died, Gaven pushed harder to educate people so others don’t have to pass on, or lose their limbs or eyesight, just because they didn’t understand the severity of the disease.”

To hear him tell it, Gaven’s fundraising methods sound deceptively low-key. When asked how he managed to raise $11,000 before his 10th birthday, Gaven understates the hours of preparation, research, and applied creativity involved in the process.

“I just go to schools and clubs and talk about diabetes and people give me money,” he notes. “Of course, I don’t keep it. It all goes to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.”

“But that’s not all you do,” his mom reminds him.

“Oh, yeah,” he recalls. “I walk to raise money, too. And I have a website.” The website, <www.askgaven.org>, is a great example of how things work for Gaven. His good looks, youthful sincerity, and single-minded devotion to the cause he loves inspire others to bring their talents to the table and join the fight. Dave Harding, whom Ms. Johnson describes as “a local High Desert friend,” heard that Gaven was interested in hosting a website. So he made contact with Gaven’s family and has selflessly volunteered hours and hours of time and expertise to setting Gaven up with one of the best-looking sites on the Web and maintaining it ever since.

“Dave is really outstanding,” Ms. Johnson continues. “He’s always just a phone call away to fix something and teach us new things. Without Dave—and all the others who have reached out to extend a helping hand—we would not be able to achieve Gaven’s goals.”

The website connects Gaven to other kids with diabetes, and offers encouragement and a sense of community. In one article, he shares what it’s like to check his blood sugar levels and give himself insulin injections in the belly while sitting in the classroom. The website also contains the full text of an article that appeared in the Victorville Daily Press when he was named Person of the Year.

In another article on the website, Gaven calls on other kids with diabetes to share their favorite recipes so he can publish a cookbook of kid-friendly, diabetes-friendly foods. Recipes are trickling in, but Ms. Johnson says they need more contributions.

“Sour Gummi Worms are my favorite sugar-free candy,” Gaven confesses. “I also like sugar-free cookies.”

He smacks his lips when Ms. Johnson reminds him of the sugar-free cheesecake they served at his Person of the Year ceremony last year. It came from Cake Expectations in Apple Valley and if the expression on Gaven’s face is an accurate indication, it must have been superb!

“You couldn’t even tell it was sugar-free,” he grins.

Besides connecting him to other kids with diabetes, Gaven’s website has also proven to be an effective way to connect with relatives he didn’t know he had. Take his cousin, Olivia, for instance.

“Olivia heard about Gaven’s website from her grandmother who lives out here in the desert,” Ms. Johnson says. “The grandmother had seen the article about Gaven’s Person of the Year award and forwarded it on to Olivia in Iowa. Olivia doesn’t have diabetes, but wants to protect herself since so many members of her family have it.”

As it turns out, Gaven and Olivia have become friends as well as relatives. They exchange ideas by e-mail and phone calls, and Gaven is looking forward to meeting her in person when Olivia comes to California to visit sometime later this year.

Despite his affliction, Ms. Johnson says Gaven never complains.

“There’s never been a day when he looked at me and said, ‘Why me?’” Ms. Johnson reports. “He never questions, ‘Why do I have to do this?’ He never complains about it or cries. He just makes the best of the situation.”

But he does get tired. At the 2007 Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes held last September 29 at Guasti Park in Ontario, Gaven found his strength abating when his blood sugar dipped too low. 

“I couldn’t walk the whole thing,” he recalls. “I got too tired.”

The Walk to Cure Diabetes is a wonderful way for kids with the disease to meet new friends and demonstrate their pride at working hard to fight their common adversary. As the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation website notes, “walks are family-friendly, held at great locations, and feature plenty of entertainment, food, and fun.”

The site invites interested individuals to become one of the 500,000 people expected to walk for a cure this year at 200 walk sites around the country. People who want to join one of the walks are invited to call (888) 533-WALK.

Gaven was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999 at Desert Valley Regional Medical Center in Victorville. Doctors there transferred him to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, where Gaven came under the care of pediatric endocrinologist Eba Hathout, MD.

“Dr. Hathout is wonderful!” Ms. Johnson says. “She sees Gaven every few months and goes over all the basics with us. She checks his A1C levels, asks how he’s feeling, checks his vitals, and then sends us to a nutritionist and a counselor.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, A1C levels are evaluated to monitor a patient’s average blood glucose levels for the previous three months. It’s a good way to see how well patients are managing their blood sugar levels through proper diet, insulin administration, and exercise.

Suzanne Sparks, RN, CDE, agrees that monitoring A1C levels is an important step for people with diabetes. Ms. Sparks, the coordinator and nurse educator for Region 7 of the California Diabetes & Preg­nancy Program at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, notes that Gaven and his mom are “textbook examples” of people with the two forms of diabetes.

“Gaven’s type 1 diabetes used to be called ‘juvenile-onset diabetes,’ but it can occur at any age,” Ms. Sparks observes. “Fortunately, he’s been taking good care of himself from an early age. It develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin.”

Because the symptoms are usually sudden and dramatic—frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss, and hunger—it does not often go undetected.

 “We used to call type 2 diabetes, the type Ingird has, ‘adult-onset diabetes,’” she notes, “but lately, we’re seeing more children developing it, especially if there’s a history of type 2 diabetes in the family and the child is overweight or obese. However, not everyone with type 2 diabetes is overweight or obese.”

She goes on to explain that while both forms of the disease produce similar symptoms, the onset of type 2 is often more gradual. It is also distinguished by complaints of anxiety or depression in the patient, and frequently develops in response to an acute illness, trauma, or injury. Ms. Sparks says gestational diabetes affects 1 to 14 percent of the pregnant population, depending on a number of factors.

“Gestational diabetes is the type we see most often in our affiliate Sweet Success diabetes and pregnancy education programs,” Ms. Sparks says. She invites persons interested in diabetes and pregnancy to contact her by phone at (909) 558-3646, or by e-mail at <susparks@llu.edu>. She also recommends that adults with diabetes can contact the diabetes treatment center at (909) 558-3022 for information and education. Parents of children with diabetes may wish to contact the Pediatric Specialty Team Center at (909) 558-2617.

While scientists wrestle to find a cure for diabetes, Gaven says it’s important to maintain an active life. He certainly does. Besides attending school, managing a website, riding his motorbike, and raising money for diabetes research, he spends time thinking about the big picture.

“I tell kids with diabetes not to be afraid,” he remarks. “If you take care of yourself, watch what you eat, and cooperate with your doctor, you can live a normal life and have lots of fun.”

And even though Gaven’s freedom is somewhat restricted by diabetes, nothing can keep his wide-ranging imagination tied down for long. When asked how he would like to change the world, Gaven goes pensive for a moment, then comes up with two answers—one expected, the other a bit more creative.

“First, I’d like for there not to be any more diseases,” he announces. “And after that, I’d like for there to be floating dirt bikes, sort of like a hovercraft.”

Given his interest in diabetes and dirt bikes and his mechanical aptitude, Gaven just might be the guy to bring both of those remarkable achievements to life.

By James Ponder

TODAY news for Thursday, February 11, 2008