Interview: Leah Fox and Pennies 4 Pumps.
Leah Fox, 14 years old, lives in Fort Collins, CO and has had type 1 diabetes since 2005. With determination and an attitude that tackles challenges head on, Leah approaches diabetes management with the same gusto. Pumping insulin since 2006, she continues to love and believe in this therapy with all her heart. Leah’s hope is that all kids who want an insulin pump can have access to this amazing technology.
And today, she's taken a few minutes to let us ask her some questions about her fundraising efforts.
Kerri: What gave you the idea to start Pennies 4 Pumps campaign?
Leah: I got my inspiration from a diabetes camp called Camp Sweet Pea. Camp Sweat Pea is designed for kids with type 1 to get together and just have fun. When I first went to camp I saw that many kids were wearing insulin pumps. I went home and told my mom about the pump and 6 months later I got one! I loved my pump so much because it allowed me to live an easier life with diabetes. I wondered why every child with diabetes didn’t have one. That’s when I found out that not all families could afford an insulin pump because their insurance may only cover a small portion of the cost. Something pulled on my heartstrings when I heard that. I really wanted to help these families, but I was only 9 and I didn’t know how until I thought of a way.
I taught myself how to make beaded jewelry and my business Dragonfly Jewelry was born. I hand make all kinds of jewelry and 50% of the proceeds get donated to my fundraiser and 50% went back into my business. Pennies 4 Pumps came later when I suggested this idea to my student council when I was in 5th grade. Though the jewelry making was effective, the P4Ps campaign got lots of people involved and helped me to reach my goal more quickly. In the last several years 3 other schools have participated in this campaign of collecting spare change. All the money goes directly to the insulin pump scholarship fund. Dragonfly Jewelry has become an ongoing fundraiser for P4Ps. Through everyone’s help over 7,000 dollars has been raised. I feel so blessed to be able to have opportunities like this. I can’t thank all the people enough who have made this possible.
Kerri: Since you have diabetes and a pump, you know how important having the right tools for management is. How does it make you feel knowing that you’re giving other kids access to helpful tools they wouldn’t otherwise have access to?
Leah: I am so blessed to be able to have a pump and a healthy life. It feels incredible to give back. Through these fundraisers I’m able to help kids just like me, and that means so much. No one really knows what a diabetic’s life is like unless they have diabetes. Since I share type 1 with those I hope to help I feel like I can understand and be a friend to them. Even when I am talking to kids who may be newly diagnosed I always encourage them to consider the pump. Being out in the public selling jewelry or running the P4Ps campaigns, I have had so many opportunities to share my story and hear others. Sometimes money isn’t the only hurdle someone has to make when considering a pump. Maybe they just need some encouragement! I love the feeling of knowing that I am helping someone in need.
Kerri: What has been your favorite part of the fundraising process?
Leah: The most fun part of this project would definitely be when I awarded my first insulin pump scholarship. That happened in December of 2009. That was my goal from the very beginning and to finally reach that after three years was amazing. Though I was in 7th grade at the time, we were able to arrange a school-wide assembly at my elementary school where we ran the first Pennies 4 Pumps campaign. I served as MC of the event and got to talk to all the kids about how they made a difference by getting involved and participating in the P4Ps classroom challenge. I encouraged them to pursue areas where they could help others and then got to award the scholarship check of $3500.00 dollars to the family and their little girl. A roar erupted as I handed over the check! That was a great day for that family and me.
Kerri: What has been your greatest challenge so far in raising awareness for Pennies for Pumps?
Leah: The biggest challenge of informing people about my fundraisers would be that I’m a teenage girl. I am so busy and it can put a damper on my work time and for getting the word out about Pennies 4 Pumps and Dragonfly Jewelry. I’m involved in many activities so sometimes it’s hard to make jewelry or get things accomplished for my business, but I try my best.
Kerri: How about when you look towards the future - do you have any plans to expand your awareness and fundraising plan?
Leah: Looking into the future, I hope someday that I could help many more families afford a pump. Currently, the scholarship is specific toward kids in Fort Collins. However, I have been thinking about expanding the scholarship to other kids in northern Colorado outside of Fort Collins. Recently, P4Ps has taken on a new look. A local middle school is selling t-shirts as a fundraiser and a portion of their proceeds are getting donated to the P4Ps fund. A choir organization is partnering with P4Ps and donating a portion of their spring concert ticket sales! I will get to show my jewelry at the concert as well and my middle school jazz choir will sing at the concert too! Accepting opportunities that come my way helps to increase awareness, so I will continue to make time to do interviews, radio shows, and blogs as much as I can! I also dream of owning my own jewelry store one day.
Kerri: Aside from all this diabetes advocacy stuff, what else are you into? Any hobbies, favorite movies, little bits of you that you’d like to share with the SUM readers?
Leah: I love to hang out with my friends. We like to go to movies or walk down to a local shopping center and get frozen yogurt. I’m also addicted to sports. I play basketball, volleyball, and tennis. Sports are a BIG part of my life. I love being outside, going shopping, and just chilling at home with my family. I’m a big travel bug. I really enjoy being on an airplane and going to new places. Recently, my family and I traveled to Costa Rica. This was my first time out of the country! My mom says I was born with a song in my heart…I would die without music. I sing in choir, jazz choir, honor choir, and was in Willy Wonka the Musical this year. I also play piano. In addition to having type 1 diabetes, I also have a severe case of “Bieber Fever”!!! God is an important part of my life. I believe He put the idea of these fundraisers in my heart and has been with me every step of the way. I am so thankful to Him and all the people that have supported a little girl with a big dream!
Leah Fox was named a Prudential Spirit of Community Award State Honoree for her great acts of volunteerism. Created 16 years ago, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represent the United States ’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service, recognizing young heroes who have made exceptional impacts on the lives of others. Thanks for everything you do, Leah!