When Aidan Kiesewetter and his friends and family take to the golf course on a special day each fall, they’re much more than a happy group enjoying 18 holes.
Aidan represents the promise of children with type 1 diabetes. And the many people with him represent the power of dedicated family and friends to make a difference in fighting the disease.
Aidan was diagnosed with diabetes in September 2007, after he was lethargic and uncharacteristically cranky during a beach vacation. Aidan’s parents, Stephanie and Jerry, brought their 4-year-old to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) after their pediatrician made the diagnosis.
The Diabetes Center for Children at CHOP is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, providing care to more than 2,000 children and adolescents. The Kiesewetters knew they were in the right place from their first day at CHOP. As their journey with type 1 diabetes began, Aidan stayed in the Hospital for five days. The diabetes team monitored his health and taught him and his parents about diabetes care.
All the nurses were beyond fabulous with the 5,000 questions we asked that week,” Stephanie recalls. “There is so much a parent needs to learn and it is overwhelming. Between the nurses and the dietitians and the doctors, they were just amazing.”
A few weeks after Aidan left the Hospital, his extended family decided to do a diabetes fundraising walk. Their team, “Aidan’s Angels,” raised more than $5,000. They knew they could do even more. Stephanie’s cousin, Mike Rigney, took the lead in organizing a golf outing. In the fall of 2008, the first Aidan’s Angels Golf Outing was held at the Bensalem Country Club.
The outing has become an annual event, attracting nearly 150 golfers and 50 to 100 guests each year. After 18 holes, everyone meets in the banquet room for dinner, a silent auction, raffles and more. Through their efforts, Aidan’s family has raised more than $26,500 for the Diabetes Center at CHOP. “Watching how diabetes has changed Aidan’s life and his family’s life has been very eye-opening,” Mike says. “After all the things CHOP has provided to them, we want to give back. The golf outing is a good time and a great way to bring people together to raise money for a great cause.”
At Stephanie’s request, the funds have been used to develop the Diabetes Center’s educational materials for families, including detailed booklets explaining insulin injections, carb counting, urgent problems and more. Diabetes requires incredible vigilance from parents. They must monitor their child’s blood sugar levels, calculate insulin doses, keep track of what their child eats, make sure schools and babysitters know diabetes care, and much more.
Stephanie, though she is a registered nurse, still becomes overwhelmed sometimes as the parent of a child with diabetes. Her family’s efforts and commitment to fundraising have had a great result: helping other families learn to take the very best care of their children, and strengthening the diabetes care offered at CHOP.
“There are no words to describe what CHOP has meant to us,” she says. “When I walk in here I know that we’re OK and I know that he’s going to be OK and he’s getting the best possible care he could possibly receive. It’s very important to us to give back.”
Aidan, now 8, is an active, upbeat second-grader who loves soccer, ice hockey, bike-riding and golf. During the Golf Outing, “he is out there with my husband teeing off, and he’s a healthy, normal boy,” Stephanie says. “When you see him you know what we’re there for, what it’s all about.”