Jim Zellmer was only 6 when he was diagnosed with type 1
diabetes. After a week at the hospital with his parents learning
how to live with the disease, Jim returned home thinking he was
His mom, Mary Agnes, still remembers the panicked look on her son's face when he realized diabetes would affect his daily routine for the rest of his life.
"He begged me 'Mommy fix this'," Agnes says. "I told him I would do everything I could."
Agnes and her husband Paul Zellmer soon founded the Zellmer Childhood Disease Foundation and started Pumpkins for a Cure, a fall event in Geneva benefiting ZCDF. With pumpkins from their relatives' farm, they raised a few thousand dollars during the event's first year. Now, eight years later, Pumpkins for a Cure has become a day-long event that has raised more than $250,000 for diabetes research.
"It's really grown due to the kindness of people that care about kids," Agnes says.
This year, the event has expanded to include at Trick or Trot 10K and a Walgreens area with a diabetes educator and blood testing. Agnes says she hopes the Walgreens representatives will help people feel comfortable asking questions.
Pumpkins for a Cure also includes activities for families, including pony rides, professional pumpkin carving, face painting and story time. During the afternoon, families can watch a demonstration by Judson Allen, who has been featured on the Food Network's Food Network Star competition. Fox Valley restaurants will take part in the Harvest Taste competition, with samples for festivalgoers, and local culinary schools will create dramatic fall food sculptures during the Culinary Competition.
Now 14, Jim has taken on more responsibilities planning the event. He even helps with a committee of high school kids who choose prizes for the younger kids attending the event.
"My favorite part is I like helping people bring stuff to their car from the day. I like seeing it all come together," Jim says.
He also recognizes the importance of using Pumpkins for a Cure to educate people about diabetes.
"They need to know that diabetes isn't contagious, I didn't get it from being overweight and I didn't do anything to get it. And it needs to be cured."
For more information on Pumpkins for a Cure, visit http://www.zcdf.org/.
Alaina is the digital content editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Chicago.
See more of Alaina's stories here.