Brashinger: Mokena teacher organizes diabetes fundraiser
By Ginger Brashinger Citizen Journalistemail@example.com February 6, 2014 2:30PM
Updated: March 10, 2014 6:10AM
Mokena Intermediate School fourth-grade resource teacher Brian Zimmerman is spearheading a basketball fundraiser as part of the Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes to support research on Type I diabetes.
Zimmerman, 33, has lived with the disease, commonly known as juvenile diabetes, since he was diagnosed at 11 years old.
“I thought, ‘what does this mean?’ You don’t know at that age,” he said.
He said he quickly learned that having diabetes meant he had to be disciplined about his diet and check his insulin levels several times a day, even as a kid.
“I still take two or three shots a day,” said Zimmerman, a former athlete at Lincoln-Way High School and St. Xavier University who coaches the sixth-grade boys basketball and eighth-grade boys volleyball teams at Mokena Junior High and helps out with the Lincoln-Way East sophomore football team.
He decided he wouldn’t let his diabetes interfere with living his life “as normally as possible,” he said, adding that he views the disease now as merely an inconvenience.
He said the main goal is raising funds for JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to defeat the disease and change the lives of millions of children, including those in Mokena School District 159.
To help achieve that goal, the district’s JDRF basketball fundraiser will be held at 7 p.m. March 5 at Mokena Junior High School, 19815 Kirkstone Way. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is free.
“I want a cure,” Zimmerman said. “It would be fantastic for an eight-year-old not to have to prick their finger four to six times a day to test their blood sugar. It’s an inconvenience, and the complications that can arise down the road for those who don’t take care of themselves are detrimental. It can (mean) death.”
Zimmerman said he “always wanted to do something” to fight the disease but didn’t know exactly what he could do until he was inspired by the success of District 159’s annual “Volley for a Cure,” a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness and research.
He asked the Mokena Police Department if they would be interested in participating in a fundraising basketball game pitting members of the police force against District 159 staff.
Zimmerman got a thumbs up from police, and Michelle Vetter and Stacey Curtis, two of his colleagues at Mokena Intermediate School who also have juvenile diabetes, got on board to help with the Kids Walk.
“I wouldn’t be able to do this without the community, police officers, the staff, the administration, school board and JDRF,” Zimmerman said, adding that he hopes the game becomes an annual event.
JDRF has supplied both guidance for Zimmerman and fundraising materials for students, who have been issued paper “shoes” that will hold the names of donors and will be placed on the walls in the district’s schools.
Zimmerman said each grade level at District 159 is putting together a gift basket to be auctioned at halftime of the game. A raffle featuring a variety of items will also be held. Zimmerman said he’s collecting gift cards from local businesses and accepting private donations of any items, especially sports-related, for the raffle.
“We’re looking for any celebrity contacts who would donate or appear,” he said. “I’ll take any of it. Shoot for the stars, shoot for the moon.”
Donations also will be accepted the night of the event or may be mailed to Mokena School District 159, 11331 W. 195th St., Mokena, IL 60448.
“Everything’s going to JDRF,” Zimmerman said.
For more information about the fundraiser, visit www.kidswalk.jdrf.org, select Illinois and go to Mokena School District 159 (online use link Mokena159 JDRF Basketball Fundraiser).
For more information about JDRF, visit www.illinois.jdrf.org.