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Life saving lab sniffs out danger

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At the tender age of five, Lily Simonton of Flower Mound already knows that a dog is a girl’s best friend.

Lily was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 18-months-old, and she now has a British Labrador named Wildrose Charlie, who is trained to detect her high and low blood sugar levels and alert her family when such levels are reached.

Managing blood sugar levels is an important and sometimes difficult task for people living with diabetes, and a dog like this offers kids and their families an easier, painless way to monitor levels during the course of daily life.  

Lily is a pre-school student at Primrose School of Highland Village, and Charlie is too. The canine goes to school each day with his master and alerts her teachers when there is a fluctuation in her blood sugar levels.

Lily’s mother, Angie Simonton, said as far as she knows, this is the first diabetic alert dog to attend pre-school.  “She loves Charlie,” Simonton says of her daughter, “and she knows he is in our lives for a purpose, and that purpose is to save her life.”

Lily, and her family, including Charlie, will be honored on Saturday, November 19th in Dallas at the non-profit Diabetes Friendly Foundation’s second annual “K9’s for Kids” benefit. Tickets are on sale now for the event at the Fashion Industry Gallery downtown at 7:30 p.m.

The highlight of the event will be awarding donations to three families, each with a child who lives with diabetes, so they may purchase a Diabetes Alert Dog like Lily’s family did. 

WFAA-TV news anchor Shelly Slater will host the event. Jayde Donovan, noted television and radio personality, and April Box Chamberlain, President and CEO, Methodist Health System Foundation, will serve as honorary co-chairs of the benefit. 

Donovan said she knows firsthand about diabetes through the struggles her grandmother endured in living with the disease. “The work done by DFF/K9s for Kids is not only moving, but also extremely meaningful in providing monitoring assistance and comfort to children with diabetes,” she said.

Lily’s mom, who teaches kindergarten at Highland Village Elementary school, said the specially trained canine has already made a huge impact in their lives since he became a part of the family this past summer.

“I needed reassurance that this “invisible disease” was under control and that I was doing everything possible to ensure she had the best care. I needed another set of eyes and ears…and a nose!  Wildrose Charlie is absolutely amazing and has been providing the added support that we were missing,” she said.

“Even though he has only been with us a short time, he has proven many times over that his alerts are already making a huge difference in Lily’s care. I love him and his nose! The trust that I already have in him and his alerts is indescribable. I sing praises every day for what he does to help contribute in this fight against Diabetes. We finally have our guardian angel-Wildrose Charlie!”

The event where the Simontons will be honored is a springboard for more and more children to receive a special friend like Lily’s dog.

“Our annual ‘K9s for Kids’ benefit makes it possible for us to train and provide Diabetes Alert Dogs for deserving families,” said Cole Egger, founder of The Diabetes Friendly Foundation (DFF). “Honoring these families with donations that allow them each to receive one of these specially trained dogs is the highlight of the event and of our year because it stands at the core of what DFF is all about – improving the lives of those living with diabetes.”

Egger noted that the dogs are very expensive, ranging from ten to fifteen thousand dollars each, and many families with a diabetic member are already struggling financially. “It’s as very expensive disease,” he said, “because families have to buy insulin, syringes and other supplies that can add up to between fifteen and twenty five hundred dollars a month.” His group is composed of all volunteers, so 100% of their fundraising proceeds go toward purchasing these dogs for deserving children.

The DFF benefit raises money to train the dogs and provide education about living with diabetes through ticket sales and a silent auction of donated items.  Tickets for “K9s for Kids” are $75 each and may be purchased at www.diabetesfriendly.org.  Benefit guests will also receive a special discount at The Fairmont Dallas hotel and may book rooms at www.fairmont.com/dal/K9forKids.

For more information about the Diabetes Friendly Foundation, visit www.diabetesfriendly.org or their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DiabetesFriendlyFoundation.

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