Like any sixth-grade boy, Omari Washington loves sports -- he plays football, hockey, basketball, runs track and loves to ride his skateboard.
But there is one difference: Omari was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, often called juvenile diabetes, when he was just 7. He's 11 now.
He is one of about 15,000 children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Omari will be taking part in the Columbus chapter's 18th annual Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes on Oct. 5.
More than 3 million children suffer from the disease. In Type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas does not produce insulin, which regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is when a person's pancreas is still making insulin, but the body is not processing it correctly.
Living with diabetes means Omari has to test his blood up to five times a day. When his insulin level is low, he has to inject himself with insulin. At school, that's tough, he said. In fact, he said, the toughest part about having diabetes is the other children teasing him.
"He developed this phenomenal appetite," said Omari's mother, Tykechia Washington, about one of his symptoms. "He was constantly thirsty."
All of the symptoms "came out of nowhere" and an appointment to the pediatrician was scheduled, she said.
Omari was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and that meant he and his mother had to learn how to test his blood sugar and how to inject insulin.
"He took it very well," Tykechia said. But she says now that he's in his pre-adolescent years, getting him to make sure to test his blood and take his insulin is getting harder.
"He wants to be more independent," she said. "I want him to have a normal life, but at the same time he has to be very careful."
She makes sure he gets a full night's rest and admits to hovering over him. After all, he's her only child.
Omari, a shy, soft-spoken boy, said the needles don't bother him.
The Baker Middle School sixth grader says social studies is his favorite subject and he'd like to be a physician when he grows up. He wants to either become an oncologist or internal medicine specialist who helps pa
tients manage diabetes.
Tykechia also said "it's a pretty expensive disease," paying for regular doctor's visits, blood glucose testing strips, the insulin, syringes to administer the shots and alcohol pads every month.
Ray Lakes, a retired Columbus State University administrator, has been handling publicity for the JDRF Walk for 13 years. The Type 2 diabetic who has family members also living with the disease said it was a no-brainer to become a volunteer to help eradicate the disease.
He's hoping to get 500 walking this year with $50,000 as its fundraising goal.
"It is our biggest fundraiser" every year, Lakes said.
Over the years, he's become acquainted with the children. Lakes says it breaks his heart to see children as young as 2 months old being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.