Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Joy in Jonas

For 7-year-old Hannah Kopek, meeting fellow diabetic Nick Jonas was almost as thrilling as raising $1,500 for diabetes research.

Posters of Nick hang all over the of Plainfield girl’s room, broadcasting to the world he is her favorite Jonas Brother. “Because we’re fighting together for a cure for diabetes,” Hannah said. “And because he’s the cutest.”

On July 10, Hannah met the Jonas Brothers backstage at the Allstate Arena in Chicago after winning a drawing for two tickets and passes. The drawing was an incentive for Hannah and walkers like her to form a walk team for the American Diabetes Association’s “Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes” and raise $500 by June 30.

“We were sitting at the airport on our way for vacation in Florida when we learned we won,” said Hannah’s mother, Kristine Kopek. “I never thought she’d win. There were five other walks and so many people competing for the same opportunity. It was kind of a long shot, so we were shocked. She was so excited, I can’t even describe it.”

Although still basking in the thrill of talking to Nick Jonas, Hannah’s focus now is persuading as many people as possible to donate to her team.

Her message is a simple one. “Please support my cause,” Hannah said.

To donate to Hannah’s team — Lil’ Fighters for Life — visit That team will walk Oct. 3 at Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm in Homer Glen.

Hannah’s story
Hannah’s problems began last fall when she went through a “picky eater” stage and complained about stomach upset. Kristine sensed a greater problem the day Hannah drank several cartons of milk and asked for more.
“She said she was still thirsty,” Kristine said. “Her blood sugar was so high she was admitted to the ICU.”

The first two months after Hannah’s diagnosis with Type I diabetes was a roller coaster of insulin injections to reduce her blood sugar to normal levels, followed by hypoglycemia and tiny amounts of candy to raise the abnormally low blood sugar levels. An insulin pump eliminated many of these problems

“I’m feeling pretty healthy, but sometimes I don’t feel that well,” Hannah said. “Then my mom checks my blood sugar, gives me Sweet Tarts and checks again. That usually makes me feel better.”

Kristine, too, is encouraged by Hannah’s progress. “She’s like a normal kid who’s able to have a normal lifestyle,” she said. “Her weight went from 37 to 44 pounds.”

Raising money, awareness

To help understand Hannah’s disease, Kristine joined The American Diabetes Association. When she learned about its walk through its monthly magazine, Kris knew she wanted to help.

“For the last three or four years, I took part in Relay for Life with either the walk or the fundraising,” Kristine said. “I had a friend and an aunt that died from cancer, so I felt this was something I wanted to be a part of. We formed Lil’ Fighters for Life with another kid in first grade at another school in the same district. My daughter’s best friend is walking, too.”

After Hannah learned about the Jonas Brothers incentive, she set her sights on the minimum fundraising requirement and forged ahead with her goal. With Kristine, Hannah canvassed her neighborhood and solicited family and friends.

When she attained the coveted $500, Hannah strived for $1,200. When she reached that amount, Hannah again raised her goal.

Kristine said they completed one fundraiser for the walk and are planning a second one.

But, most of all, Kristine is proud of her daughter’s determination and accomplishments.

“She understands a lot for a 7-year-old,” Kristine said.

Source: Surburban Chicago News and NickJOnline