A kissable pig

A kissable pig

You may remember the irrepressible Quinn from a column I wrote last August.

She’s a 6-year-old with Type 1 diabetes, and her mom, Leighann Calentine, writes the D-Mom Blog about living with the disease.

Quinn is back, this time hoping to pucker up with a pig.

She’s one of seven people raising money for the American Diabetes Association’s annual Kiss-a-Pig Gala to raise money for diabetes research. Most are adults, but 7-year-old Ashley Smith of Fisher is also participating.

The contestant who raises the most money gets to kiss a pig at Friday night's gala at the Refinery. (Why pigs, you ask? Insulin was synthesized from the pancreas of pigs).

Ashley was diagnosed two years ago with Type 2 diabetes (manageable with medication). Her brother Jacob, 20, has Type 1 (requiring insulin shots). Her teacher volunteered with Kiss-a-Pig last year and thought it would be fun for Ashley.

 "She is very excited," says Ashley's mother, Cheryl Smith. "It shows her other kids who are like her."

The family put out cannisters at local restaurants and stores, sold pigs that say "Fisher Fights Diabetes," held bake sales and collected "Dimes for Diabetes" at Fisher Grade School. So far they've raised about $1,000, plus items for the silent auction, and hope to bring in $3,000 to $4,000 in all.

Quinn has raised almost $5,000 in cash and prizes for the gala auction. She has a Facebook page devoted to her campaign. (Full disclosure: her grandfather used to work at the News-Gazette, which put together the poster at left.)

She also got her principal to agree to kiss a pig if the school raised $500. Students and families met that goal late last month, with one student in her first-grade class bringing in more than $250.

The kissing was tentatively scheduled for Monday morning, but there was a problem: no pig.

Turns out Penelope, the pig Calentine had hoped to recruit for the event, wasn't available Monday. She's a popular piglet, the same one headlining Friday night's gala.

Calentine had a stuffed pig in reserve, but she wants the real thing. So does Quinn. That’s pretty much why she agreed to do this fundraiser.

“I like piglets, and they’re so cute,” she says. “And I like the character Piglet.”

In fact, the first time they met, Quinn and Ashley made a pact: whoever wins the contest will allow the other girl to kiss the pig, too. And the nice folks at the ADA have agreed that both girls can kiss Penelope on Friday night, even if they're not the overall winners.

After all, they are the only kids in the contest.

Quinn's family moved the school kiss-a-pig event to next week, to be sure a live pig was available. The ADA has arranged a substitute for the family, according to spokeswoman Nicole Simmons, so everybody's happy.

To learn more about the Kiss-a-Pig event and the other volunteers raising money, visit the gala's website or Facebook page, or follow www.twitter.com/ADAGreaterIL.

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Reporter Julie Wurth writes and blogs about family issues, social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her column, "Are We There Yet?" appears in the News-Gazette every other Tuesday. You can leave a comment below or contact her at jwurth@news-gazette.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jawurth.

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