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
"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
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.
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