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Halloween with Diabetes: A Pumpkin Patch for Jack

D-mom Jennifer Anderson rallies her community

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

Halloween conjures up images of ghastly ghouls, fanciful fairy princesses and crime-fighting comic book heroes. And candy. Lots of candy. That sugar and carb frenzy can present a challenge for parents of children who live with diabetes. To help address that challenge, we’ve shared tips on how to plan for Halloween when your child lives with diabetes, as well as how Amy Ohmer’s family celebrates Halloween with two daughters living with type 1 diabetes. Today I’d like to share another story about how d-mom Jennifer Anderson helped make Halloween special for her son, Jack.

Jack Anderson welcomes the Great Pumpkin to his Halloween pumpkin patch
Jack Anderson welcomes the Great Pumpkin to his Halloween pumpkin patch

In 2012, when Jack was 7 years old, she received a call from his teacher asking about his frequent trips to the school restroom. “His teacher had a student in one of her previous years that went to the bathroom a lot and found out that the child had a kidney problem,” said Jennifer. “So she called to make sure that there was nothing she needed to know about Jack. That got me to thinking about how often he goes to the bathroom at home. I called his pediatrician and made an appointment for a physical. The tests included the finger prick to test his blood sugar level and his numbers were off. That’s how we found out he has type 1 diabetes.”

The news came two weeks before Halloween. Jack had been planning to go trick-or-treating, but after his diagnosis, plans changed. “I wanted to try to get him involved in another way that didn’t have to do with collecting all the candy,” Jennifer explained. “For several years now, we’ve had the nickname for him of Linus after Linus van Pelt of the Peanuts® comic. So I came up with the idea that we would just make him Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to come.”

Jennifer set to work, creating the scene. She passed word among her family and friends that she was looking for pumpkins. “A lot of people donated,” she said. “For example, my mom’s a teacher and they went to a pumpkin patch for a field trip. The owner donated probably 10 or 12 pumpkins. Then a lot of my mom’s students also gave her their free pumpkins from their field trip. And one of my friends bought him an electric pumpkin that had Snoopy’s® face carved out of it with a light in it, which was cool.”

Jack Anderson greets trick-or-treaters in his Halloween pumpkin patch
Jack greets trick-or-treaters in his Halloween pumpkin patch

On Halloween night, the family assembled the pumpkins to create a pumpkin patch on their front lawn. They set up a hay bale for Jack to sit on in the middle of the patch, complete with a posterboard sign that read, “Welcome Great Pumpkin.” Jack helped design the path for the pumpkins and put candles in the pumpkins that lit the pathway. As trick-or-treaters arrived, he acted as host and passed out candy.

The year following Jack’s diagnosis has been one of adjustment for Jennifer’s family. “We deal with situations as they come up the best way we can and go on with it,” she said. “Everything is food and timing. He’s an 8-year-old boy now; he’s growing. He’s constantly hungry. Trying to figure out the best times to have our meals and plan his snack now has to be in a routine in order to get it lined up correctly for his insulin shot times. It’s not like it used to be where he could eat whatever he wanted throughout the day and not have to worry about it. He has been absolutely remarkable on how he’s adapted over the past year. I’m pretty proud of him.”

This Halloween Jack is planning to go trick-or-treating as The Incredible Hulk®. Jennifer already has a plan in mind for the candy haul. “I’ll use it for rewards when they bring home their school planners that are filled out,” she said. “Jack will pick out one piece of candy from the jar when he gets home from school and we’ll put that towards his carb count. We’ve also done things like temporary tattoos or stickers or little charts where they get a bigger reward at the end of the month.”

I applaud Jennifer for coming up with creative ways to help Jack celebrate Halloween. As a mother, I can appreciate wanting to help create special memories for your child. Many thanks to Jennifer for sharing her story.

All the best,

Laura K.

Disclosures: Jennifer Anderson received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

Peanuts is a registered trademark of Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

Snoopy is a registered trademark of Peanuts Worldwide LLC.

The Incredible Hulk is a registered trademark of Marvel Characters, Inc.

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