Lenett's laps help other kids
When Carly Lenett was just three years old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Now, Carly is eight and she has learned to handle the disease and even monitor her blood sugar and operate her insulin pump all with only minimal supervision. She has also helped to raise $9,000 for the American Diabetes Association and is helping others become aware of the disease.
In some respects, Carly was lucky, because her father, Mitch Lenett has also dealt with Type 1 diabetes since he was a child, giving her an instant support system and mentor in dealing with the disease.
"Her brother Ben, who was eight at the time, was swimming and Carly pleaded to go in the water," Mitch Lenett said. "We were standing right there and I was ready to jump in with my street clothes on if I had to, so we let her go in and she just started swimming and mimicking what Ben was doing.
"She started swimming and going back-and-forth from one side of the pool to the other. But even as a baby, she loved water. You look for things to soothe kids and if we would just put a little bit of water in the bathtub and put her in, she would be quiet."
It has been about four years since Carly's first experience in a pool. She's taken that experience and turned it into a way to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. Carly and her family were signed up for the annual Step Out Walk last year and Carly had an unusual request. Rather than walking in the event, Carly asked if she could swim.
That started the wheels turning and with the help of Rhonda Heier at the ADA, a new event was born.
Initially, Carly and her family thought she might swim 25 or maybe 50 laps in a pool to raise money for research, but Carly raised the bar while practicing for the event.
"I swam 50 laps and then I took a break and was going to swim more," said Carly. "I had a banana and I swam another 50 laps. Then I just decided to do 100."
That was a year ago and Carly completed those 100 laps and raised $9,000.
"I like raising a lot of money and helping other kids," said Carly.
"When she was doing that last lap, she looked up at me and I just started to cry," said Amy LeFever, Carly's swim coach. "She is a very special girl."
Following the event, Carly received a special surprise. Emmaus High swim coach Tim O'Connor heard about Carly's accomplishment and brought it to the attention of his team.
Each member of the team signed a card and wrote a line or two to let Carly know how impressed they were with her achievement. O'Connor also included a couple of Emmaus High School swim caps and would go on to become a part of this year's event.
"She was both energetic and courageous and we just wanted to recognize her for her efforts of overcoming and working through such an adverse situation," said O'Connor.
"We met with Tim this Spring and when we first sat down, he said 'I don't know what you're going to ask me, but I'm in'," remembers Mitch Lenett.
With a lot of planning and hard work, this year's event is going to be even bigger than last year's. First, Carly is planning on swimming 110 laps and raising even more money than she did last year. The event, which is being held at the Emmaus High School pool on September 29, also features a full swimming clinic and has Olympic star power to help.
"Tim said he knew Kristy Kowal," an Olympic silver medalist and two-time World Champion, said Mitch Lenett. "The next day, he called me and said Kristy was in and would swim the laps with Carly this year."
Carly hopes to raise $10,000 this year and has already received over $2,000 in pledges for her 110-lap endeavor, putting her well on the way toward her goal.
In her role as Lehigh Valley Youth Ambassador for the ADA, Carly has made another friend, former Pittsburgh Steeler Kendall Simmons, who will be helping to launch this year's Step Out Walk and cutting the ribbon along with Carly to start the walk on October 13 at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
For more information on Carly and how you can donate or take part in either the swimming clinic or the annual Step Out Walk, visit www.diabetes.org/lehighvalley.