So, we're stepping out of the county lines a minute for a story, but...there's no way that we in Muskegon don't understand the importance or effects of Juvenile Diabetes and if we can lean on a neighbor close enough by to help tell the story, raise some awareness and help the cause, we'll do just that.
Imagine being 15 and already enrolled in the West Michigan Aviation Academy. This is the kind of stuff that astronauts are made of. After all, Neil Armstrong could fly before he could drive, did you know that? Andrew Kleiman of Ada was on that trajectory (since we're using space terms) and he had a life ahead of him with the hopes of being a military pilot and commercial aviator. Remarkably high goals and to have the presence of mine in place at 15 to make the staunch commitment to fulfilling those dreams, well, it's not a gift that many that age have. It was all brought to a halt when Andrew was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. It's the most serious form of diabetes and there are 1.6 million Americans living with it and 200,000 of them, are less than 20 years old. Imagine the thought of trying to adapt to life dealing with an immune system disorder like that, especially in our days now when we are all concerned with Covid and our pandemic situation? It's a crushing thought and one that can break anyone's spirit.
It took some time, as it would for anyone to adjust to what they had hoped for and what curveballs life throws, but Andrew managed. While the flight deck wasn't an option, he could sure excel at other areas of life and manage his diabetes. Flying, it's extreme, so...pick an extreme sport, like say lacrosse, which he plays on a travel team at Forest Hills East where he's a senior this year. Shift that defeat into a mission and work to educate others with the help of organizations like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and then, with a future ahead of ya...it might be time to help learn the family trade, which as luck would have it....is a pretty sweet business.
Andrew's grandparents, Mike and Patty McDonald own Dr. John's Healthy Sweets in Comstock Park. The make all kinds of delicious sweets ranging from lollipops to caramels, taffies, root beer barrels, mints, chocolates, gum and more. All sweetened naturally without the sugar. They like to call themselves the "Willy Wonka of West Michigan". Some of the candy products are so healthy they throw vitamins in them to sneak them past ya while you're enjoying a treat! Luckily, for Grammi and Gramps, Andrew is one of these young folks who can easily get to work on some e-commerce for the family business, so, after the pivot from pilot to business in school....get that boy online and let's sell some candy!
All of this leads to a discussion today with Andrew and Nikki Borges who is the Executive Director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Michigan and North West Ohio. We're talking about Andrew's story, some facts about Juvenile Diabetes and yes, even the family business. It's Juvenile Diabetes Awareness Month for a few more days, so take a listen.
It's a family give back on the part of the McDonald family that they are giving 10% of sales in November to the JDRF of Michigan and North West Ohio. Time is short for that, but at least now you know there's an option and you know now too that even at a young age, when things seem like hope is lost and that some disease or another is there to steal all you have hoped and dreamed for, it might just be a way of telling you that you in fact have a higher purpose. One that you didn't really plan on, but life knows where you belong and where you will have the most impact on those who need you. Our very best to Andrew, you were made a hero my friend and you didn't even see it coming. Thanks too to Dr. John's....the candy samples will be going to some of the Muskegon Area toy drives so the kids in the area get a little something sweet Christmas Morning and our thanks too, to Nikki for spending a few minutes today on behalf of the JDRF. Would you like to purchase some of Dr. John's Healthy Sweets? Click on the photo below!