Skip to content

This young ‘Gator’ is a crusader

Ten-year-old Ross Felker wants to be able to eat cake without having to give himself an insulin shot first. He’d like to be able to make it through the day without worrying about his blood sugar level.

That’s why the Farmington fifth grader and his family have raised more than $1,500 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes. He hopes one day the foundation will develop an artificial pancreas.

Four months ago Ross was diagnosed with Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes.

The day after Easter, Ross started telling his parents, Stephanie and Edward, that he was tired a lot. All week, Stephanie watched her normally energetic son just lying around.

Stephanie could tell he’d lost some weight and when she weighed him, she discovered he’d lost five pounds. He was also thirsty a lot and going to the bathroom more frequently.

His parents suspected something was wrong. Ross’ doctor confirmed he had Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes and immediately sent him to Cardinal Glennon.

Edward said within a half an hour of getting his first insulin shot, Ross was back to his normal self. He had energy again.

They stayed at Cardinal Glennon three days to learn how Ross would have to live now. They learned that he should stay away from syrup and regular soda but other than that, he can eat anything in moderation.

From that first day, he’s been giving himself insulin shots four to seven times a day. How much insulin he takes depends on how much carbohydrates he takes in.

He checks his blood sugar level at every meal with five carbs or more and checks it again at bedtime. He also checks it when he feels his blood sugar is low.

“We’re thankful he can feel when he has a low,” Stephanie said.

Ross said when his blood sugar is low, he starts feeling shaky or weak. It gets harder for him to concentrate in class.

“So I just check my blood right in the middle of class,” he said. He often gets questions from fellow classmates about what he is doing and why — questions he is more than happy to answer.

If his blood sugar is low, he goes to the nurse’s office where they monitor him for a little while. Stephanie said the teachers have been wonderful.

“The insulin is not a cure,” Stephanie said. “It’s what keeps him alive. He is a great kid who is dealing very honorably with a stinky situation.”

She said he has never complained once about having diabetes or about taking insulin shots.

“He’s had such a great attitude,” she said. “… He said ‘I don’t like it but I can’t do anything about it so I might as well have a good attitude.’”

Ross attended a Diabetes Camp in Cape Girardeau this summer. He’s also attended a local support group.

When his family found out about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes in Kansas City, they decided they wanted to take part.

They formed a team called Ross’ Gator Crusaders. About 40 members of the team plan to walk Oct. 10.

“We chose this name because of Ross’ love and devotion of the University of Florida Gators,” Stephanie said. He’s loved the team since the 2006 Championships.

As a family, they set a goal to raise $1,000.

They met that goal the second week of September. By the end of the next week, they had raised $1,500. Their new goal is $2,000, Ross said.

They’re getting all kinds of help. His dad, who has an American Family Insurance Agency in Bonne Terre, as well as Commerce Bank in Bonne Terre, and the Branding Iron (where his grandparents are part owners) are participating in the Walk to Cure Diabetes paper sneaker campaign. Paper sneakers can be purchased for $1 at those locations.

Also, Farmington High School’s Vista Club, an all-girl service club, will be selling sodas during lunch hour through Oct. 9 to raise money for Ross’ group. Edward said there are eight others in the school district who have diabetes.

Friends from other states are also helping out. Their friends who own a HugaMonkey Baby Swings business will match any donation their customers make.

For more information or to help, visit or

The family has learned that research has come a long way in the last 10 years. They are excited about research to develop an artificial pancreas.

“This would mean a return to ‘normal’ life for Ross,” she said.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at


About Type 1 Diabetes

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as many as 3 million Americans may have Type 1 Diabetes. Each year more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. That’s 40 children per day.

A healthy pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that the body uses to change glucose in the blood into energy.  Glucose in the blood comes from the food and drink a person consumes. 

A person with Type 1 Diabetes doesn’t produce any insulin. Without insulin, the glucose builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. Blood sugar levels that are too high and untreated for long periods of time can lead to ketoacidosis, a very serious condition. Very high blood sugars for an extended period of time can eventually lead to coma and death.

If people with Type I Diabetes inject too much insulin or eat too little, they may have a hypoglycemic reaction or low blood sugar. This is common in children with diabetes. It can be very serious and requires immediate action.

People with diabetes must carefully balance their food intake and their exercise

Leave a Comment