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Bradley Hilltopics

Summer 2007 • Volume 13, Issue 3
Rainforest database •  McCord  •   Pizzeria •  E-waste •  Fashion  •  "Y generation"

Diabetes image

Ten-year-old Hannah Palka demonstrates for Andrea Willis ’07, left, and Dr. Kendra Brandes how diabetes supplies fit in a purse that Andrea designed just for her. Five students in the family and consumer sciences department created custom bags and packs for children and teens with diabetes.

Visit for information about juvenile diabetes.

Fashioning must-haves for kids with diabetes

by Gayle Erwin McDowell ’77

Children living with diabetes face complicated tasks like counting carbs, testing their blood sugar levels, and taking insulin. The bag that carries their supplies or holds the pump that delivers insulin is literally an accessory they can’t live without.

As a diabetes educator and sales rep for an insulin pump manufacturer, Nicole Ary Herron ’00 knew that finding bags and cases that appeal to young patients is usually a struggle for parents. Herron decided her alma mater might be able to help. She came up with a plan for family and consumer sciences (FCS) students to create bags and packs geared toward young people.

Aided by a special emphasis grant from Bradley for purchasing materials, the project was launched last December when five FCS majors met with 16 young people, ages three to 16. The children and teens from the Central Illinois Juvenile Diabetes Support Group were interviewed about their needs, likes, and dislikes. “Each student really spent time thinking about how to match the design to the requests of the participant she was matched with,” explained FCS assistant professor Dr. Kendra Brandes.

The FCS students and the support group met up again on March 26 for a reception and fashion show at the Michel Student Center. Each participant received and modeled two custom-made items.

Hong Rickett ’07, a retail merchandising student, designed more than a dozen bags. “She just kept getting ideas and turning out different styles,” said Brandes. Mary Lou Strong ’07, also in retail merchandising, designed packs with clear windows so parts of the insulin pump were visible.

“The dietetics students also planned the food for the reception and listed the carbohydrate content of each food so that the participants could choose refreshments,” said Brandes. Dietetics students included Suparna Misra ’07, Vanessa Smith ’07, and Andrea Willis ’07.

Juli Palka, whose daughter was diagnosed at age 2, appreciated the labels on the healthy foods and drinks at the reception, as well as the designer accessories made with the children in mind. “One of the hardest things as a parent is when you go to an event where food is served because you have to estimate carbs. I heard lots of great comments that evening from parents who hope the program will continue.”

FCS department chair Dr. Nina Collins, associate professor Dr. Chang-ok Choi, and Brandes were pleased that the program allowed their students to learn from each other. “Our dietetics students taught the retail students about diabetes and how the insulin pumps work. The retail students taught them about working with fabrics and the design process,” Brandes said. She and her fellow FCS professors pitched in and made packs along with the students. In addition to designing packs for the original support group members, bags or packs were sent to some children who have just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes.


Rainforest database •  McCord  •   Pizzeria •  E-waste •  Fashion  •  "Y generation"