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I have a little girl who has been living with type one diabetes for four years now. She wears two "gadgets" attached to her body, deals with blood sugar highs and lows, and never really feels "normal." It's a lot for anyone to deal with, much less a sweet 8-year-old. We are so very close to amazing technology (bionic pancreas) that would make living with this difficult disease much easier ... and maybe even a cure, as Thursday's news out of Harvard was amazing.
All year round, I do everything I can to promote awareness of this disease that affects around 3 million Americans but is much less understood than type two diabetes. But this time of the year, as we approach the annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes that we participate in, I kick into high gear with the raising of awareness - and money to help find that next step and ultimately that cure.
First, the awareness: In type one diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease, the pancreas has basically failed and does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Healthy people have pancreases that produce the right amount of insulin at the right times; type one diabetics have to take insulin externally, either via shots or an insulin pump, every time they eat, calculating the amount of insulin they need based on the amount of carbohydrates in the food they are eating, their activity level, their stress level ... the list goes on and on of things that affect blood sugar, making it incredibly hard to manage the levels like a functioning pancreas would.
In type two diabetes, which is a metabolic disorder, usually the pancreas still makes insulin, but the body cannot use the insulin properly for various reasons.
OK, on to the fundraising part: I'm a big believer in the cliche of putting "fun" into fundraising, because asking for money just for the sake of money is hard! So this weekend, I have planned two fundraisers for my little girl's Walk to Cure Diabetes team that I hope will raise money to aid those wonderful folks working so hard to give her and the other 3 million folks a better life.
First on Saturday, Oct. 11, is a Progressive Palette painting party in Williamstown from 2-4 p.m. This is $35 a ticket and is for adults and kids over the age of 8. This requires you to register and pay online in advance, and there are only a few spots left, so if you read this and want to go, click here ASAP. All snacks and instruction are included!
Then on Monday is a movie morning at the North Adams Move Plex. For $5 per person (cash only please) you can see "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" on opening weekend! The movie starts at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, which is Columbus Day and appears to be cool and rainy - the perfect day for a movie!
On Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014, the heat in my house kicked on in the overnight hours.
With the exception of a semi-uncomfortable warm day here or there, August was a mild, lovely month, filled with temperatures in the 70s and blue skies. Twice in August I ventured to evening shows at Tanglewood and ended up needing long pants and jackets.
Lovely. As someone who hates extreme weather - on both ends - I have enjoyed this month immensely. And this last weekend of August, Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer, looks like it will start off just as perfect, with bue skies and temperatures in the 70s predicted for Saturday, Aug. 30.
So why not get out and about on Saturday? I have two suggestions on where to take the family.
First, in Pittsfield is the fourth annual Berkshire Dream Center neighborhood block party at Morningside Community School. Morningside holds a special place in my heart, as I am a "graduate" of the school, though I won't date myself and divulge what year I wore an ultra-fashionable two-piece polka dot dress and sang "The Rainbow Connection" with my fellow fifth-graders. This event, which runs from noon to 3 p.m., aims to bring the community together with free food, face painting, raffles, bounce house, hair cuts, balloon animals, pictures with Alex the Lion, a hula hoop demonstration and participation for children, games, music and more. For more information, call 413-522-3495 or visit berkshiredreamcenter.blogspot.com.
Or, you could head north, just across the border into Bennington, Vt., where the annual "Vermont Stinks" Garlic Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and again on Sunday, if you want to brave the possibility of rain showers). Admission is $5 per adult and $1 per child under 12; the festival features food and crafts from more than a100 different vendors all made from garlic and herbs, as well as music, children's activities and more. The festival is held just 1.5 miles west of the four corners in Bennington at Camelot Village on Route 9. I went one year and still remember trying garlic ice cream ... I'm not sure I have ever gotten that memory out of my mind. More info can be found at lovegarlic.com.
If local food (not necessarily made with garlic) is more your thing, here's something for Sunday, Aug. 31: You can feel young again and join Williams College students at the second annual Spring Street Food Fair in Williamstown from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Students get vouchers to try out local eateries offerings but the community can join in on the tasting fun with cold hard cash, too. Note that Spring Street will be closed to cars during this time.
And as for the holiday Monday ... well, if the kiddos already have started school, make them do some homework. If they start next week, make them get some sleep before all the homework comes. And enjoy your holiday weekend!
Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are We There Yet?: Digging Disney
By Rebecca Dravis On: 09:59PM / Thursday June 12, 2014
Disney's "The Little Mermaid" came out when I was around 16 years ago. I very clearly recall rolling my eyes in typical teenage fashion when my mother asked if I wanted to watch it. Watch a Disney movie? That was so for babies.
But I watched it anyway ... and fell in love with everything Disney. Within a few years I had amassed a collection of Disney VHS videos, videos that I still have, videos that are the reason I might be one of the two people left in Massachusetts with a couple VCRs still in my house, videos that I could not wait to show my own daughter. "The Jungle Book." "The Fox and the Hound." "Aladdin."
I have continued that collection since my daughter was born, only now my personal copies are on DVDs (though I feel like I might be one of the 10 people left in Massachusetts with a regular DVD player, as Blue Ray is all the rage, at least until something even better comes out and they try to make us think we need to buy copies of everything we already own in whatever format that ends up being). The latest in my collection is "Frozen," which I wasn't prepared to love as much as I did. It's not only the amazing music, it's the story and its message. I love that in the end, it's the love between sisters that saves the day, not a prince. Awesome!
This Saturday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m., Images Cinema, our cool local movie house in Williamstown, will show "Frozen." Images doesn't typically show Disney movies, but there is a special reason for this one: It's Williams College reunion weekend, and the movie's Oscar-winning hit song “Let it Go” was co-written by Williams alum Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Regular ticket prices apply, but lest you think it's silly to pay to see a movie you own (and I know most of the people reading this column probably DO own it), I guarantee watching it in Images with an intimate crowd sure to include children singing along will be an amazing experience. How do I know? My fellow Girl Scout leaders and I showed it to a group of 25 second-graders and listening to all of them belt out "Let it Go" together was extraordinarily cool to hear. Images is located, by the way, at 50 Spring St. in downtown Williamstown, which should be hopping this weekend with alumni.
And speaking of Disney princesses, there is, of course, Cinderella. Remember how she has nothing to wear to the ball until the fairy godmother swoops in to save the day? Mill City Productions in North Adams is debuting a show this weekend in which Cinderella has nothing to wear to the ... disco??? Yes, "Cinderalla Goes Disco" will play Fridays, June 13 and 20 at 7 p.m., Saturdays, June 14 and 21 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays, June 15 and 22, at 2 p.m. at the Mill City Theatre in Building 4N (next to the Visitor's Center) of the Western Gateway Heritage State Park in North Adams.
Mill City promises this to be an interactive play that will allow children from the audience to shine on stage with the actors and is fun for the whole family. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for students/seniors and will be available at the door. For more information, visit www.millcityproductions.org.
Not sure if your child would like "Cinderella Goes Disco"? Look this weekend as my 8-year-old and I kick off a yet-to-be-named series of summer family theater reviews in which she and I will see family plays all around the Berkshires and then discuss the pros and cons for the kiddos. "Cinderella" is our first stop, and we are excited to work on this project together this summer. Beats sitting around the couch moaning "I'm borrrred" all summer!
Rebecca Dravis is the community editor at iBerkshires. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Are We There Yet?: Summer on Stage
By Rebecca Dravis On: 10:26PM / Thursday June 05, 2014
I promised you a column of summer family fun. First I'm going to start with theater, not only because there is so much family theater in a Berkshire summer but also because I live with a little actress who likes nothing more than being on stage.
One of our favorites is Shakespeare & Company's Rose Footprint productions, outdoor theater under the big round tent, where the audience sits in lawn chairs and the actors run around and through the audience and interact with them. This year, the production is "The Servant of Two Masters," billed on S&Co's website as "a comical blend of the Italian classic Commedia dell’arte and contemporary performance styles that tells the story of the outrageous and wily servant, Truffaldino, who secretly signs on with two masters simultaneously."
The actors are young, colorful and funny, and kids of all ages will love this show, which runs three times a week from June 25 through Aug. 23.
From July 23 through Aug. 10, Barrington Stage Company will present "Hairspray Jr." at the theater in the Berkshire Museum. Based on the film and Tony Award-winning stage musical of the same name, "Hairspray Jr." follows spunky plus-sized teen Tracy Turnblad as she pursues her dream of dancing on national television and navigates the racial tensions and stereotypes of the 1960s. Please note that children under 5 are not allowed into the theater.
Just over the border in Chatham, N.Y., the Mac-Haydn Theatre — the very cool theater in the round — will host another season of children's theater on Friday and Saturday mornings starting June 27. This year's productions are "Wilbur the Not-So-Big, Not-So-Bad Wolf," "Aladdin," "The Pied Piper" and "Rumplestiltskin." Every show we've seen in this theater has been amazing, and I highly recommend the short drive across state lines.
Back in Massachusetts, Berkshire Theatre Group presents "Seussical the Musical" at The Colonial in Pittsfield from Aug. 7-17. On its website, BTG says actors will be "flown" through the theater for the second year. I missed "Peter Pan" last summer but apparently that was such a big hit they're flying again this year. Pretty cool.
The last production I will mention is the free outdoor theater that Williamstown Theatre Festival presents every year. While I miss the colorful on-stage show the young actors used to present, I will admit that last year's production of "Dracula" was awesome. In fact, I liked it so much I read the book over the winter. (Well, by "read" I actually mean "listen to on CD" but whatever.) Anyway, this year WTF is presenting "Robin Hood" from July 16-25. The WTF website says "the Williamstown woods are magically transformed into Sherwood Forest as sought-after director Stella Powell-Jones enlivens this legendary swashbuckling adventure on the outdoor free theater stage." Magic, yes, but also buggy so don't forget the spray!
If I've missed any family theater fun, I'll catch up on it next week. For this weekend, enjoy what looks like gorgeous weather with two fishing derbies. On Saturday, June 7, the 22nd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby takes place at the Frank Controy Pavilion at Onota Lake in Pittsfield from 6 a.m. to noon to raise money for the Jimmy Fund. Fee is $10 adults, $5 for children ages 14 and younger. On Sunday, June 8, the 20th annual Fishing Derby at Lake Mansfield in Great Barrington will be held for youth up to age 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. No fishing experience necessary. Prizes and souvenirs for all participants will be provided through generous community donations. Funds raised will support the Action Adventures Out-Of-School Financial Assistance Program.
No one should ever have to suffer the pain of losing a child.
As a parent of a child with two autoimmune diseases, I face that terror perhaps more often than most parents. But I'm sure anyone reading this column, any parent, would feel nothing short of sheer despair should something happen to their child.
That's why I cried when I heard about Harley Ogle.
I heard about the death of this Pittsfield second-grader from my mother, who used to work with Harley's grandmother. She hesitated when telling me, obviously sensitive to my own situation with my daughter. Harley died in his sleep; my daughter has type 1 diabetes, and most type 1 kids who die do so in their sleep. When she told me, my heart ached for this family. She told me how she and Harley's grandmother had become grandmas around the same time: He was born just a few months after my own daughter, and while they worked together they shared pictures and stories of their beautiful grandbabies as they grew into infants and toddlers and little kids. This year, they both entered second grade, my daughter with her health issues and Harley with some of his own.
But my daughter made it to her 8th birthday. Harley died this spring just a couple weeks before his own 8th birthday. My mother went to the wake and cried hard, both for Harley and for the fear she feels as the grandmother of my daughter. In fact, she cried so hard that Harley's grandmother came to check on HER the following week to make sure SHE was all right.
I share this story not to be have a depressing column this week. I share it to urge you to help turn Harley's death into something positive.
This Sunday, May 18, Harley will be remembered with a benefit at the Back Nine Bar & Grill, 303 Crane Ave., Pittsfield, from 3 to 10 p.m. There will be food, raffles and live music by Rev Tor, Domino Theory, B.A. Dario, Longview Gunslingers, and Chris Merenda. All proceeds will support the Pittsfield Family YMCA licensed elementary school-age programs, which Harley attended at Williams Elementary School. Attendees who provide school supply donations will receive two free raffle tickets; supplies that are needed include board games, arts and crafts, markers, scissors, UNO cards, Jenga, paper, books, sidewalk chalk, glue/glue sticks, pencils and erasers and Legos.
Tickets are $10 and are available at Nichols Package Store, Wheeler's Market in Lanesborough and at the Pittsfield Family YMCA. For more information, contact family friend Lindsay Dambrauskas at 413-212-1479.
If you want to know more about Harley and the lives he touched in his short time on Earth, visit the Facebook page set up in his honor. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy, and hug your own kids a little harder tonight.