DEARBORN, Mich., June 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blake Lillicraf may be newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D), but you'd never know from his composure.
The 13-year-old multiple-sport athlete was diagnosed with T1D in November of last year. It was a shock for the family, but fully explained Blake's symptoms – he constantly drank water yet was always thirsty and lost weight. Then he told his mother, Dianne Lillicraf, that he had a hard time recognizing his friends from across the room – an easy distance that had never challenged him before.
"Fortunately, he didn't have to be hospitalized," Dianne said. "And from the very beginning he took it upon himself to take his insulin. We remind him to test, but other than that, he took charge. We're kind of blessed that way – he was old enough to do that."
Blake, an eighth-grader at Madison Middle School in Trumbull, Conn., has always been athletic. While he started with baseball, he now plays lacrosse, runs, and snowboards. He is also an avid drawer.
"He's done some work for a few teachers at school, helping them with posters and things like that," Dianne said.
Blake leaned on his creative talent and networking abilities developed through active participation in an Alzheimer's awareness group to propel himself to the finals in Ford Customer Service Division's (FCSD) "Our Everyday Heroes" Race Car Design Contest for JDRF, where he was chosen as the winner.
Blake, who during the contest raised $6,550 to support T1D research through JDRF, is attending the Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago this weekend to see the design he created on the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car, driven by Bob Tasca.
Children with T1D from around the nation competed in this year's contest, and with the help of Ford dealerships and donations from employees, raised $57,127 for T1D research.
"The results of the contest this year were just astounding," said Mary Lou Quesnell, director of marketing for FCSD. "We couldn't be happier with the results. To all of the kids, Ford dealers and employees, and friends and families of the contestants, thank you."
JDRF is the largest charitable supporter of T1D research. Ford Motor Company has donated $42 million to JDRF, more than $3 million annually for the past 10 years. FCSD joined the effort in 2008 and has raised approximately $300,000 with the race car contest alone.
"It has been another remarkable year of progress and fundraising with the support of Ford Customer Service Division through the design contest," said Margo K. Lucero, JDRF's vice president of corporate development. "We are grateful for the amazing efforts of this year's talented young contestants, and for Ford's valued and continued support of JDRF and of all people living with type 1 diabetes."
"We were overwhelmed (with the results of the contest)," said Blake's mother, Dianne. "First, we were overwhelmed with the amount of donations that came in. We reached out to everyone we knew not expecting the outcome to be this great. It couldn't happen at a better time. I think diabetes quietly takes a toll, especially for a 13-year-old boy."
The Lillicraf family has been watching NHRA race broadcasts on ESPN2 to "study up" on what they're about to see – the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car that Blake designed races at speeds faster than 300 mph.
"I can't wait to get over there," said Blake. "I'm just going to be really shocked to see cars going that fast. I can't wait to see Bob (Tasca)."
This weekend's race will be televised from 11 p.m. to midnight ET on Saturday, June 29, and 9 p.m. to midnight ET on Sunday, June 30, on ESPN2.
Bob Tasca, now in his sixth season behind the wheel of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Funny Car, always looks forward to having the contest winner at the track.
"The strength of these kids always amazes me," Tasca said. "I have to have a lot of control with what I do, making sure I do everything right in my race car. But these kids have so much to handle in their day-to-day lives. It's astounding how much they do to manage their type 1 diabetes at such young ages. I have a lot of respect for these kids and their families. We're happy to help JDRF raise money for important research."
In T1D, the body's pancreas stops producing enough insulin, a hormone that is needed to turn food into energy. People with T1D must monitor their blood sugar levels and administer insulin via shots or an insulin pump, multiple times every day. Even with vigilant management, there is still a risk of T1D complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputation. JDRF is the largest charitable funder of research toward preventing, better treating, and eventually curing T1D.
For the first time, fans can text to make donations to JDRF. Money raised will be added to Blake's fundraising total. Just text "JDRF" to 20222 once, anytime between now and August 16, 2013. A one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance.
The donor must be age 18+ and all donations must be authorized by the account holder (e.g. parents). By texting "YES", the user agrees to the terms and conditions. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers.
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About Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers
Quick Lane® provides automotive quick services for all makes and models. Quick Lane's nationwide network of more than 600 facilities, each providing the convenience of an aftermarket company (no appointment necessary, service while you wait, evening and weekend hours, competitive prices) with the confidence of a major automotive manufacturer (quality parts, factory-trained technicians). Quick Lane® is a registered trademark of Ford Motor Company. For more information, visit www.quicklane.com.
JDRF is the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. JDRF's goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people's lives until we achieve a world without T1D. JDRF collaborates with a wide spectrum of partners and is the only organization with the scientific resources, regulatory influence, and a working plan to better treat, prevent, and eventually cure T1D.
As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring $530 million in scientific research in 17 countries. In 2012 alone, JDRF provided more than $110 million to T1D research. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. In 2012 Forbes magazine named JDRF one of its five All-Star charities, citing the organization's efficiency and effectiveness.
For more information, please visit jdrf.org.