Maya Young is a baseball-hitting, hockey-playing, 8-year-old ball of energy who loves competing in gymnastics. She’s lived with type-one diabetes for six years.
“’How does she do that? Poke her finger and it won’t hurt her,’” Maya said her Lexington classmates have asked her when she pricks her finger to check her blood-glucose levels. “I usually say to them, ‘Oh, I’ve been doing this for a long a time, so it doesn’t hurt.’”
Her mother, Karin, said her daughter’s initial diagnosis was heartbreaking, but for the most part, Maya has lived a largely normal life for someone her age. Next week, she’ll get to experience another facet of normal life for local kids—a day at the Bluegrass Fair.
About 40 local diabetic children will get the chance Wednesday to head out to Fayette County’s Bluegrass Fair for free rides and lunch courtesy of the fair’s organizers, the Lexington Lions Club. The American Diabetes Association and the Lions Club have been working closely to put the event together.
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The gesture is a part of the club’s international push to raise awareness and funds for diabetes research. Maya is extremely excited about it.
“Food. Food. Food,” Maya said when asked about what she’s most excited about at the fair. “Funnel cake.”
“It’s our gift to the diabetes kids and the diabetes community,” said Pat Ryan, the immediate past president of the Lions Club. The organization puts on the Bluegrass Fair every year to help fund its philanthropy.
Ryan is no stranger to diabetes. After years as a biology teacher and athletics coach, he couldn’t escape the diagnosis —type two, adult-onset diabetes — that plagued many of his past family members.
But now, 18 years after his initial diagnosis, Ryan is a champion of diabetes. After years of disciplined diet and exercise, Ryan’s doctor took him off of his diabetes medication, and he and his beloved Lions Club are looking to help others with the disease.
“We want to beat diabetes,” Ryan said. “We know that there’s an epidemic going on definitely here in Kentucky, throughout the United States and worldwide.”
In Kentucky, 11.3 percent of the adult population was living with diagnosed diabetes in 2014, according to CDC data. An estimated 30.3 million Americans had diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes in 2015, another CDC report said. That’s 9.4 percent of the U.S. population.
Understanding the disease is one of the first steps toward beating it. Karin said many people don’t understand the difference between type one and type two diabetes. Type one, which is what Maya has, is all about genetics.
“You’re born with it. It’s in your blood,” She said. “You’re going to eventually have it.”
Type two, also known as “adult onset,” is all about diet and exercise, Ryan said. Anyone can come down with either type of diabetes in their life, but a sedentary lifestyle makes the likelihood of type two much higher. Many Americans are living with type two but don’t know it, so he encouraged many to get tested.