Lamkin Elementary Student Stands up to Diabetes

Maddilynn Kelly, 10, raises money to end diabetes

Written by Samantha Villarreal | Photography by Candace Cook

While most elementary students spend their free time watching cartoons or playing outside, 10-yearold Maddilynn Kelly has been investing her time in fundraisers to spread awareness and find a way to end type 1 diabetes (T1D). The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the leading global organization funding T1D research, stated that more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults, approximately 80 people per day, are diagnosed with T1D in the U.S.

CFM_SP_15_education_student spotlight_maddilynnkellybycandacecooktarnowski6

This is a serious issue that Maddilynn is passionately fighting to end. T1D is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent it, and nothing you can do to get rid of it.

Classmates and Questions
Maddilynn was diagnosed at the age of 4, and only a year later started raising money to find a cure. She has currently raised a total of $30,000. Before moving to Texas, Maddilynn attended school in Arkansas where she received strong support with her fundraisers from other students who helped sell candles. She explains that the hardest part about dealing with diabetes is the constant questions her classmates ask her about the illness. She wasn’t able to check her insulin pump without kids around her asking if it was a pager or a mobile phone. They weren’t able to understand, because nobody else at her school had diabetes.

Maddilynn and her family have since moved to Cypress where she attends Lamkin Elementary. The school nurse excitedly introduced her to another student who is also diabetic. “Now I have a buddy to walk to the nurse with. I’m not alone anymore,” Maddilynn says. “We go three times every day for a checkup, and we make sure we are always looking out for each other in case one of us is feeling low.” She made her own decision to let go of her insulin pump and now gives herself a shot of insulin after every meal.

Maddilynn’s mother, Elizabeth Kelly, expresses how truly different the lifestyle of her daughter differs from other children her age who don’t have to deal with the daily struggles that come with T1D. She explains that the most difficult part about it as a mother is the fact that it is everchanging. “It’s never consistent. You can’t find a routine for it, and there’s no specific diet you can be on to regulate her diabetes,” says Elizabeth. “Maddilynn can’t just grab something and eat it.”

Maddie’s Angels
Future fundraising ideas the Kelly family have in the works include golf tournaments in the Cypress area, profit shares with local restaurants, selling candles, and the JDRF One Walk at the NRG Park in October. Maddilynn’s walk team is called “Maddie’s Angels” and the entire family participated. “We really enjoy the walks because it gives us a chance to feel normal,” says Elizabeth.

“Our daughter doesn’t have to hide her pump or feel isolated because all the kids there, and the families who walk with us, are fighting the same battle every day. They understand.” Since the time that Maddilynn has been dealing withT1D, two of her extended family members have been diagnosed with cancer. Elizabeth explains that they saw Maddilynn as a reminder that fighting can make a difference. “Both of them are now cancer-free,” Elizabeth says. “Maddilynn is our family’s inspiration.” CFM

SAMANTHA VILLARREAL is passionate about people and sharing their stories. She is currently studying media production at the University of Houston.