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Published: 3/12/2010

Online bid seeks $100 in every U.S. ZIP Code

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Technology is keeping Jack Meyers alive.

The 16-year-old from Ottawa Hills is attached to an insulin pump 24 hours a day and keeps track of his blood-sugar levels through a sensor inserted in his body.

Now Jack is using a different kind of technology to help find a cure for his disease.

Through an Internet-based fund-raising campaign called "Zip the Cure," Jack is leading the Ohio portion of a national effort to raise $4.2 million for diabetes research, ZIP Code by ZIP Code.

"I've dealt with diabetes almost every single day of my life that I can remember," said the St. Francis de Sales High School junior who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 18 months old. "Any way that I can raise money for it, I'm in. I'd do it for anything."

The goal of the campaign is to raise $100 for every ZIP Code in the United States. In Ohio, that would total $143,500 for all of the state's 1,435 ZIP Codes. An online map of the United States highlights the campaign's progress, turning each ZIP Code from yellow to green once that area's $100 goal is reached.

Jack's principal fund-raising tools are social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, which he and other state captains use to get the word out about the campaign. For Jack, who's taken part in fund-raising events such as walkathons since he was a young child, Zip the Cure's online approach is a novelty.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "This is a new way to do it. I don't remember the social media and the Internet being involved in raising money as much as this. Plus, it's all teenagers and college students involved in doing this."

Zip the Cure was started by Monica Oxenreiter, a 15-year-old from Pittsburgh.

She and her 20-year-old brother, John, are diabetics, and they were inspired to set up the campaign after attending the 2005 Children's Congress organized by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Washington.

"We wanted to find a way to connect all of the dedicated people who we met there, and ZIP Codes seemed like the obvious idea," Monica said. "Everybody knows their ZIP Code. It was just something we thought would work."

The campaign began in November, 2009, and has gathered steam as more state captains sign up. The youngest state captain is a 7-year-old Missouri girl. So far, 200 ZIP Codes have been sold across 34 states, raising $20,000.

Almost 8 percent of people in the United States suffer from diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is most common in older adults, who generally suffer from Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the body cannot metabolize sugar properly. Most often, this form of the disease can be controlled with careful diet and exercise, although sometimes it requires medications or insulin therapy.

Type 1 diabetes is a less common but more dangerous form of the disease. It is generally diagnosed in children and young adults. People with this form of diabetes, such as Jack and Monica, cannot produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert food into energy. They must take insulin throughout the day in order to stay alive.

For Jack, having diabetes can mean missing out on sporting events or having to stay up late to do homework when his blood-sugar levels stop him from concentrating.

Jack has three older siblings who do not have diabetes, but his mother, Molly Meyers, said the disease affects her entire family.

"You have to eat on time, you have to be aware of how they feel. You have to set good examples of how you eat and exercise," Mrs. Meyers said. "I feel in many ways I've had the disease along with him. I have watched him struggle. He doesn't get discouraged, but it is a struggle."

Both Mrs. Meyers and Jack hope more than anything else that the ongoing research into diabetes will lead to a cure for the disease.

"Nothing would change his life more than a cure," Mrs. Meyers said. "An insulin pump and a sensor are not a cure, they're just tools to regulate. I really believe that there will be a cure. I believe in my heart that there will be."

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at:

cbarrett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6272.



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