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Volunteer from Capital High wins national award

  • By CHARLOTTE FERRELL SMITH

    DAILY MAIL STAFF

    Jay Haapala, a 15-year-old Capital High School freshman, has won a national award for volunteerism.

    His work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation won a Prudential Spirit of Community Award. The nationwide program honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. He learned last week that he was one of 102 secondary school students from the 50 states and the District of Columbia to win the 2013 award.

    "I felt honored," he said. "I was really excited."

    Jay, of Elkview, served as chair of West Virginia's annual fundraising walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Held last May, the event attracted more than 700 walkers and raised a record $140,000.

    He worked on the project for several months as he created a new logo, built a website, planned media coverage, and got assistance from his Boy Scout troop. Heading the walk served as a service project for scouting. Jay is working toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

    "I thought it would be cool to get the experience," he said. "I think it's cool to do things kids my age typically wouldn't do."

    He made the walk an impressive event with a balloon release, activities for kids, a helicopter landing and a military airplane on display. His love for flying led him to choose an aviation theme.

    The service project stemmed from his own nine-year battle with type 1 diabetes.

    "I went for a 6-year-old, well-child checkup when they did a urine test and found sugar in the urine," he said. "They admitted me to the hospital and it was conclusive. I was diagnosed."

    Jay said it was initially more of an adjustment for his parents, Lori and Tim Haapala.

    "Over time it was more of an adjustment for me," he said. "When I was first diagnosed, I had multiple daily injections. Any time I ate, I got a shot of insulin."

    He now uses an insulin pump that he programs himself. He checks his glucose eight to 10 times a day.

    While he is a fairly healthy eater, he enjoys the occasional candy bar.

    "I eat anything and everything," he said. "I love fresh salads."

    However, he also has Celiac disease and focuses upon a gluten-free diet.

    Jay isn't one to let any of this slow him down.

    "I refuse to dwell on it," he said.

    Capital High Principal Clinton Giles takes pride in Jay's accomplishments.

    "He is a fine young fellow," Giles said. "He is very goal-oriented, civic-minded, bright and talented. He's an excellent debater. He is in a challenging, upper-level curriculum."

    Jay is now investing time and energy into organizing this year's fundraising walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The event is set for 11:30 a.m. May 19 at the state Capitol complex.

    He describes the event as a family fun day with a walk around the Capitol building, lunch, and activities for kids. For more information go to www.kidswithdiabeteswv.com, email lorihaapala@yahoo.com or call 304-382-7822.

    As a recipient of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Jay will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where he will join honorees from throughout the country for four days of national recognition events.

    Jay plans to invest his $1,000 in flying lessons. While he would not pass medical tests to become a commercial pilot, he intends to have a private pilot license one day.

    Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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