Falcons faithful help a teammate give others an experience of a lifetime
By David Yarger
Being a high school student athlete is no easy task. Jumbling practice with homework, and games with important projects can be a difficult time for most. For Kelsey Lachowski, she's dealing with a lot more than being a senior in the classroom and on the court for the Niagara-Wheatfield girls basketball team.
Lachowski was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3 years old. According to the American Diabetes Association, "In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body."
Lachowski needs to make sure at all times she's properly hydrated and eating correctly. Throw in basketball practices, games and school work, and it can be easy to lose energy.
However, coach Gary Jackson said, despite everything Lachowski faces in life, she gives it 100 percent in everything.
"When we have a basketball game and the game is over, we go home, we take a shower, we make sure our homework's done and we go to sleep. But she doesn't get to do that. She needs to hydrate herself, eat properly ... her parents have to check her blood levels, so she's up all night; not just her, it's her whole family, and they have to make sure she's good to go.
"It's not just every game; it's every practice. There's times she has to play with a monitor on, but she still plays. ... She plays hard with us and she plays every single game. ... She's out there every day giving it her all," Jackson said.
Jackson added how most basketball players are worried about falling or twisting an ankle, but with Lachowski it's life and death.
On Tuesday, Jan. 9, the Falcons played Starpoint in a non-league matchup. The girls won the game 55-43 and Lachowski had 11 points. As nice as the win was, the best moment came at halftime, when the team showed their continued success of fundraising to send someone with diabetes to Camp Aspire.
The team presented a check of $1,370 to the American Diabetes Association, a dollar amount that's over half way to their $2,000 goal. With the $2,000, Lachowski hopes to help send three kids to Camp Aspire, a camp which the ADA says, "Is to allow the campers the ability to feel at ease and 'accepted' in a community where having diabetes is the rule, not the exception. The campers learn to understand diabetes and the process of self-management, under skilled and continuous medical supervision. It is the hope of the staff that these children go home feeling more self-confident, self-reliant and having gained the knowledge they need to live successful, full lives with diabetes."
The camp is located 15 miles from Rochester, and costs approximately $650.
Lachowski said that giving back to others going through diabetes means the world to her.
"It means so much to me, personally, because I love helping other people and I like seeing other people who go through what I go through become happier about themselves and their experiences in their illnesses. So, this means a lot to our whole team. We just love helping them," Lachowski said.
Jackson agreed, noting that families all know a loved one that deals with the disease.
"Personally, it's great because all of us that have someone in their family with diabetes, but when we have someone on the team, Kelsey, and everything she puts in; just to know that girls and young men like her have an opportunity to meet each other, help each other and have a good time and then have lifetime friends, so if one's ever down ... they can call and get a pep up. We all need someone to help us out, so that's really what it's about ... we all just come together and help each other out," Jackson said.
The fundraiser has been going on for three years now, as Lachowski and her mother Claudine became the brainchild of the fundraiser. At the start, the goal was to send one kid to the camp. To jump to sending three kids would be something special.
Lachowski said the idea came just from wanting to give back to others, knowing exactly what Camp Aspire could bring to kids with diabetes.
"We thought about doing something to help other kids, because I grew up and I got too old to go. So, we just wanted to help somebody else that was not able to pay for it. We both thought it would be a good thing to do," Lachowski said.
The fundraising has occurred during every home game for the girls basketball team the last three years, as red jugs are placed at the entrance, as well as brought around in the stands for donations. To date, the fundraising has brought in $5,391.
Seeing the overwhelming amount of support from people in attendance at the games is an amazing feeling to Lachowski, and she said for people to donate their time and money to the cause shows where donators' hearts really are.
Jackson praised Lachowski for the efforts she's brought to the team, along with her toughness.
"She motivates me, and even dealing with what she deals with, she's a mini me on the court. She's given up what she thought was her game to help the team, and without her we don't win. It's great to see her on the court, it's great to watch her and it's great to know that she's there. I'm a 21-year veteran, active duty in the Army and this is one of the one's I'll take in a foxhole with me any day," Jackson said.
For those interested in donating to Kelsey's cause, visit a Niagara-Wheatfield girls basketball home game. The next home game is at 6:30 p.m. Friday versus Kenmore East.
The Niagara-Wheatfield girls basketball team makes a donation to the American Diabetes Association. From left to right: Tara Perreault, Brianna Zayatz, LeGary Jackson, Emma Carrier, Kelsey Lachowski and coach Gary Jackson.