NISSWA -- Gannon Raguse, the son of Bryan and Karen Raguse of Nisswa, is only 7, but the second-grader at Nisswa Elementary School already is shouldering a responsibility most children his age don't have to worry about.
Gannon was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June of 2003 just after he finished kindergarten when he was 6 1/2. He receives two different types of insulin injections four times a day and must prick his finger to check his blood sugar levels four times a day as well.
As the only diabetic student at Nisswa Elementary School, Gannon is used to leaving class and taking his snack time at a different time than the rest of his classmates. He's also grown accustomed to being unable to eat hard candy or other sugary foods like the other kids.
While Gannon is living successfully with diabetes, his goal is to help fund diabetes research so a cure can be found.
"I'm hoping we can find a cure so I don't have to have it anymore and other people in the world don't have it either," Gannon said.
Gannon's diagnosis has meant Nisswa School staff have learned a lot about the chronic disease and how to help manage his diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, which formerly was called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin.
"He's been just a total trooper," said Karen Raguse, Gannon's mother. "I think it's harder on me than him. He's been so mature and responsible with everything. He just seems much older than he is."
Walks for Diabetes
-- Second-graders at Nisswa Elementary School will host a special School Walk for Diabetes of their own at 1:40 p.m. Thursday on the Paul Bunyan Trail.
-- Brainerd's Walk for Diabetes will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday on the Paul Bunyan Trail in Baxter. The walk raises funds to find a cure for the disease, which affects 18 million Americans.
-- The Brainerd event is open to anyone who wants to walk, bike or skate the five-mile route.
-- Honorary marshals of this year's event in Brainerd are Brainerd Mayor James Wallin and Miss Brainerd 2004 Quinn Nystrom. They are among 300,000 Minnesotans with diabetes.
Raguse said before her son was diagnosed, he began drinking several large mugs of water each day to try to quench his excessive thirst. She knew instinctively that her son had diabetes, although diabetes doesn't run in their family.
"I knew in my gut that he had it," said Raguse.
Nisswa Principal Erin Herman said she had heard of the American Diabetes Association School Walk for Diabetes project and sent for information on hosting a benefit walk at the school. Herman felt it would be a good opportunity for students, particularly Gannon's classmates, to raise funds for diabetes research and bring an awareness about the disease. She asked Gannon to be the honorary walker for their school walk.
"I'm excited," Gannon said of the school walk.
"He's excited that he gets to lead the troops," said his mom. "We thought it was wonderful, of course. It helps us get the word out about diabetes itself."
"He's such a pleasant boy, very kind and very smart," Herman said of Gannon. "He's teaching us every day about what he's going through."
Because of the logistics of taking so many students on the Paul Bunyan Trail, only second-graders and the 10 elementary student council representatives will participate in the School Walk for Diabetes this year. Herman said she would like to make it an all-school event in the future.
For the past week Nisswa second-graders have been collecting pledges for the walk. Last week, second- and third-graders participated in a presentation by school nurse Mary Lastovich and Mary Paine, ADA local coordinator, about nutrition, exercise and diabetes. Gannon also spoke to students about diabetes.
At 1:40 p.m. Thursday, Nisswa Elementary School's 42 second-graders will walk on the Paul Bunyan Trail until the end of the school day. If they raise more than $1,000, the school will receive items for its playground, said Herman.
The Raguse family, which also includes Gannon's 5-year-old brother, Gabriel, a Nisswa kindergartner, plan to walk in the Brainerd Walk for Diabetes together on Saturday. They did it last year as well.
At first it really bothered Gabriel that his older brother had diabetes. He would get upset to see what his brother had to go through every day, said his mom.
"Gabriel's just really sweet," said Raguse. "For his birthday we asked what kind of cake he wanted. He said he wanted the kind of cake his brother can have. He's been very supportive."
While students have been curious and have asked questions about Gannon's diabetes and his daily injections and finger pricks, they have been supportive of their classmate. Gannon said students have asked him if they can catch diabetes.
"You can't catch it," Gannon said he told them. "It's an organ in your body that doesn't work."
"For the things he has to go through, he's extremely responsible," said Holly Olson, Gannon's teacher. "It's just part of his everyday life. "They don't think anything is different. He's just one of them."
JODIE TWEED, staff writer, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.