A Turner Valley boy recently diagnosed with juvenile diabetes felt like a superstar when his community banded together to show their support.
Turner Valley’s school, fire department, mayor and Foothills Lions Club proved to nine-year-old Toryn Hayward that they have his back after hosting a firefighters versus students basketball game at the school to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on April 12.
The event was organized by local firefighter Chris Carbert after learning that fellow firefighter Matt Hayward’s son, Toryn, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes last fall.
“We have our immediate families and then we have our fire families so when something happens to them it happens to us as well,” Carbert said. “When Toryn was diagnosed we really took it hard and rallied around them and said, ‘We are here to support you.’ We’re behind them 100 per cent in everything they need.”
After attending a similar event at his daughter’s school in Okotoks, Carbert thought a firefighter versus student basketball game would help raise money and awareness for juvenile diabetes.
Ten members of the fire department, two local RCMP officers, four students and a mascot teamed up against the school’s 25-member basketball team in an action-packed game.
“Being firefighters, we are all in fairly decent shape,” said Carbert, adding some had played basketball in their younger years.
Despite their advantage, the Turner Valley School Tigers took the victory with a 35-20 win.
“They’ve got some really good kids on their team,” Carbert said. “There’s some fast little guys. One guy said, ‘I’m going to slam dunk on you guys.’”
The fire department donated $1,000 each to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Legacy Park, a $800,000 project that will transform the school grounds into a 16,000 square-foot wheelchair accessible recreation park.
The Turner Valley School community raised more than $600, donating $307.55 each to Legacy Park and the foundation.
“It’s really an eye opener for the kids to realize there is so much good you can do if you take the time and effort to do it,” said principal James Holladay. “The kids realize there’s a greater world out there and a bigger community they’re a part of.”
Students who didn’t play basketball surrounded the gymnasium holding signs, noise makers and pompoms to cheer on their favourite team.
“They all really got into it,” Holladay said. “It was as loud when the firefighters scored as when the kids scored. It’s important that everyone realizes that they are important and as a school family we can make a difference.”
Adding to the hype, a representative from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation offered the Hayward family an overnight stay in Calgary to attend Juno Award-winning country singer George Canyon’s fundraising concert for the foundation on April 29.
“There was a few tears,” said Carbert. “I had some in my eyes and my wife as well and Matt and his wife and some of the faculty. It was not what I was going for to get that reaction but sometimes you let the emotions take over and it’s really cool to see.”
Cheyana Hayward, Toryn’s mom, was overwhelmed by the support.
“We are super grateful and thankful for everything that the school has done, our fire department, the community and the lions club,” she said. “(Toryn) said to me he is super grateful that everybody put so much time in just for him.”
The day Toryn was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes was a difficult one for the family, said Cheyana.
“The first week was pretty hard and he was pretty scared,” she said. “Toryn has been a rock star with it. He has his good days where he doesn’t let it affect him and he has his bad days.”
The family suspected something was wrong when Toryn began losing weight last September. Initially chalking it up to puberty, Cheyana said her cousin, who is a nurse with a diabetic daughter, suggested Toryn might have diabetes.
The Hayward family went to the Children’s Hospital in Calgary to have Toryn tested.
“It never crossed my mind that it could be that,” said Cheyana. “Within a weekend our whole lives were completely changed.”
Toryn requires insulin injections four times a day and the family keeps close tabs on his diet.
“Now everything has to be calculated,” said Cheyana. “Everything he eats and drinks affects his blood sugar level. He’s got to be aware of how his body is feeling.”
Toryn said things were pretty scary at the beginning.
“It affected everyone in the house around me,” he said. “My mom gets worried when I sometimes go out alone with my friends because you never know what’s going to happen.”
However, Toryn said he still lives a pretty normal life.
“At first I thought I couldn’t do much because it was hard taking insulin and poking my finger, but I’m still very active,” he said. “I like to play outside with my friends.”
The Hayward family moved to Turner Valley two years ago from Calgary and Cheyana said they aren’t looking back.
“Moving to Turner Valley is probably the best decision my husband and I have made,” she said. “When Toryn was diagnosed his teachers were so supportive. They wanted to know what they needed to do to make him comfortable in coming back.”