Baranek: Richards’ Sullivan a Crusader for a good cause
By Tony Baranek email@example.com September 8, 2013 4:56PM
Katelyn Sullivan, of Richards | Tony Baranek~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:27AM
Richards junior Katelyn Sullivan is beginning one career and ending another this fall.
As a setter for the 7-1 Bulldogs, she’s off to a fantastic varsity start, leading them in assists, aces and digs.
On Oct. 6, she’ll be making her final walk with “Katelyn’s Crusaders” in a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation event at Moraine Valley Community College.
When they cross the finish line, they’ll complete a family crusade that in eight years has raised more than $40,000 for JDRF.
It’s been a pretty special year all the way around for the Oak Lawn resident.
During the summer she was accepted into the National Society of High School Scholars, an organization based in Atlanta that recognizes premiere students who are active members of their communities.
She also was invited to the National Student Leadership conference at Northwestern University, where she took part in lectures by doctors on the topic of health care and performed classroom medical procedures.
She’s especially proud, though, of her work in bringing together family, teachers and friends to help the JDRF cause.
“Its nice to know that people care enough to donate money, and it’s nice to know that I’m helping the younger ones,” Sullivan said.
Katelyn was one of those younger ones — too young to fully comprehend what was happening in her life as a second-grader at Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn, when it was revealed she had Type 1 diabetes.
Sullivan spent nearly a week in the hospital before going home to a new life that was long on discipline and short on fun.
“I remember the first day I got home from the hospital when an ice cream truck went down the street,” she said. “I was told no ice cream, no sugar, and I just burst into tears.”
Sullivan had to go to classes to learn about diabetes. It was at one of them, Katelyn said, that the Sullivans met a family who were involved with JDRF.
“They said, ‘Oh, we have a team (of walkers). Why don’t you walk with us your first year?’ So we did, and we raised about $8,000.
“The next year we wanted to make our own team. I had friends from my class, and my grandparents, aunts and uncles. Family that I didn’t even know existed came out. It was a nice feeling to know that people were there to help me if I needed it.”
An honors student in grammar school, Sullivan joined her first club volleyball team in seventh grade. At Richards, she has worked her way up the ladder to the varsity.
“She could have been pulled up last year,” Bulldogs coach Troy Grevengoed said, “but not knowing what was going on with lineups, we decided to let her spend one more year with the sophomores.
“Since she’s come up we’ve been really excited. She brings a lot to the team. She works her butt off, loves the sport, and now we’re just learning a lot of things about her other accomplishments. She’s so humble about it.”
Sullivan wears an insulin pump to treat her condition, but said it doesn’t affect her volleyball activities. The most she’ll give in to diabetes is taking a timeout when she feels she needs sugar.
Katelyn’s Crusaders, meanwhile, are warming up for their final journey.
“I’ve run it for so long. I feel it’s time,” she said of the walk. “I’ll still fundraise for it. I just won’t have a team.
“It was so much fun. They have activities here, like games, music. It was kind of like a little festival for diabetics.”
And so worth the fruit she helped it bear.