Crystal Brown

More than $40,000 was raised Saturday at the first-ever Parker County 4-H 5K Run/Walk to Cure Diabetes held at Love Street Park.

The day’s activities included much more than the 5K route through the streets of southwest Weatherford. Participants were entertained with live music, visits by McGruff the Crime Dog and the McDonald’s Hamburgler, and children took full advantage of the playground equipment and a balloon-totting clown.

Hosted by the youth of Parker County 4-H, the event was a benefit for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Rachel Donahue, executive director of the JDRF, said the group contacted her organization about putting on the event as their One Day project.

“They chose to do something to show kids helping kids,” Donahue said. “We are just so excited for the outpouring of love and support from the community.”

Kayla Neill, an adult leader of the Parker County 4-H, explained the One Day project is a challenge presented by the state 4-H office for the youth to perform some kind of community service activity.

“It could have been mowing yards, food drive, things like that,” Neill said. “Because we have three 4-Hers diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, JDRF worked with us and the youth decided to make this their project.”

Money raised from the event benefits research to find a cure for both juvenile and adult onset diabetes. There are 85 chapters of JDRF nation wide, which put on more than 200 fundraising walks each year. Donahue said 85 cents of each dollar raised goes directly to the charity for research.

“We have a very high efficiency margin,” Donahue said. “The money raised for the charity goes exactly where it needs to go.”

The Parker County 4-H youth started their money gathering efforts in July with a goal of $50,000, and as donations continued to trickle in Saturday, the group was hopeful of meeting that goal. Neill said the kids did most of the event planning on their own including going door to door for sponsorships and conducting telephone drives calling local businesses for donations.

Keeley Sears and Bodee Hall, both 14, are a couple of the Parker County 4-H Ambassadors who serve as a voice for the group. Sears said they were responsible for writing speeches and making presentations to civic organizations to help raise money for the event.

“We’ve done a bunch of community service, but this is the biggest thing we’ve done,” Hall said.

“We have some 4-Hers with juvenile diabetes and we wanted to do something to help out our friends,” Sears said.

One of those fellow 4-Hers is Alex Harding, 14, who discovered he had juvenile diabetes just before his 11 birthday. He went with the ambassadors as they raised money to share his story with donors.

“I was losing a lot of weight, I wasn’t growing anymore, but I was eating constantly,” Harding recalled about finding out he had diabetes. “My mom took me to the doctor and they said it was nothing.”

But Harding said he dropped from the 90th percentile weight class for his age to the 40th, and his mom continued to push doctors until they drew blood and discovered he had diabetes.

After attending a short educational class at the hospital and learning the basics of insulin shots and diet regulations, Harding is continuing on with his life.

Neill said sharing stories like this and contributing to a cause to better the community encompasses what 4-H stands for.

“Our goal is to teach life skills,” Neill said. “One of the big things we promote is community service because at each one of their club meetings our kids pledge their heads, their hearts, their hands and their health for the betterment of their club, community, country and world. What better way to encompass all of that than by doing an event like this? We’re getting the world in this I think.”

After witnessing the level of leadership and organization shown by the 4-H youth, Donahue is confident this event will return to Parker County next year.

“These kids are amazing to work with,” Donahue said. “They are definitely tomorrow’s leaders that helped put on this walk. I wouldn’t call them kids, they are definitely young adults.”

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