Grit. Determination. Humility. Strength.
They’re just a few qualities that come to mind when describing 16-year-old Jessie DeSalvo. When it comes to achieving her goals, the high schooler and athlete doesn’t let anything stand in her way – including Type 1 diabetes.
After Jessie was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease six years ago, Akron Children’s Hospital’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology became a big part of her life. Today, Jessie and her parents, Joe and Cammie DeSalvo, are using their voices to raise awareness about diabetes – as well as support for Akron Children’s.
Understanding a misunderstood disease
When Jessie was first diagnosed, she said she felt scared and confused because she didn’t understand what diabetes was. Her parents admitted to having a similar reaction.
“It’s amazing how misunderstood diabetes is,” said Joe. “ Some people think it’s short-term or something that can be outgrown or fixed. But Jessie will have this her whole life. Bringing awareness to the disease is something that is really important to Jessie and our family.”
One of the things that surprised the DeSalvos is that more and more children in the Mahoning Valley are being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year.
“That really struck us,” said Joe. “We want to help the hospital support the families that need it, because diabetes is expensive.”
That’s where donor support can make a difference.
Helping children thrive
The DeSalvos and their family business, DeSalvo Construction, have become hospital donors, making gifts to the center for diabetes and endocrinology as well as the expansion of our Emergency Department (ED) in Boardman.
“Type 1 diabetes is not a curable disease. It’s manageable, but it is life changing,” said Cammie. “We want to support Akron Children’s as it helps others with the same diagnoses or different illnesses in emergency situations.”
“The DeSalvos are an example of giving back to the community in a huge way,” said Natinder Saini, MD, pediatric endocrinologist and director of diabetes and endocrinology at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley. “Donors help us protect our kids, save lives and transition our patients from one phase of life to the next.”
Dr. Saini explained that many families give back with financial contributions and material donations – and by speaking up.
“You can do so much just by advocating for children with diabetes,” she said.
“I definitely hope for a cure someday,” said Jessie. “Type 1 diabetes is manageable, but between managing your health, money and insurance, it can be a struggle for a lot of people. I hope we get to a point where people are able to be more than ‘just diabetics’ and live a life they want to live without diabetes constantly looming over them.”
How you can help
You can become an advocate for children in the Mahoning Valley with diabetes. Contact Jeannine Donatelli, major gift officer – Mahoning Valley – at Akron Children’s, at 330-746-9112 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how.