Amelia Kauzlarich has witnessed the effects diabetes has had on her father and grandfather. She was intrigued when she learned she could participate in a contest to help raise money to prevent the disease.
Kauzlarich, 14, an eighth-grader at Blue Heron Middle School, not only submitted an original piece of artwork at school; she was chosen as the overall winner. Her design will appear on Washington state license plates in the near future if fundraising efforts are successful.
The contest was organized by the Fariborz Youssefirad Memorial Health Scholarship, a nonprofit organization based in Port Townsend dedicated to helping prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
The winning design features a hand-drawn image of Earth underneath a plethora of healthy foods along with the quote, “Managing diabetes is an art, not a science.”
“My inspiration was that most of my family has diabetes, and my grandpa had liver cancer, but the diabetes affected him really badly, and that is also the cause of his death,” Kauzlarich said. “My dad (Chris Kauzlarich) has diabetes also, and he has to watch his blood sugar a lot. Being a firefighter and all, you have to make sure you are keeping yourself cared for while you are taking care of other people.”
Chris is a firefighter with East Jefferson Fire Rescue.
Knowing she too is at risk of diabetes since it runs in the family, Amelia said she is being proactive.
“I make sure that my diet is well-balanced — enough protein, enough carbs and enough sugar — to make sure I don’t get (diabetes) and other family members don’t either,” she said.
Amelia’s mother, Mary Kauzlarich, found out her daughter won the contest a few days in advance of the awards ceremony, and she was careful to keep it a secret.
“I was really proud of her,” Mary said. “The night she was doing the license plate she said to me, ‘I am just going to do it, Mom, because we have this in our family, and I hope it could make a difference.’ I think it is a beautiful design. We were all really happy for her when we got the phone call that she had won, because we had totally forgotten about it. It was a very exciting moment.”
Amelia said she wasn’t expecting to win.
“I thought there were way better artists than me out there that were going to do it, and they were going to win,” she said. “But I was going to do it because no one in my class was raising their hand to do it. I’ll do it. Why not?”
When the awards ceremony took place a couple of weeks ago at Pippa’s Real Tea, Amelia was in for a treat.
“We met up at Pippa’s to have the tea and surprise Amelia,” Mary said. “She had no idea. We had the grandparents come in from Bremerton, my husband’s family. She wasn’t expecting that, and she had her two good friends from school. They surprised her, too. It was really a nice moment. We are very proud of her.”
When Amelia learned she had won, she didn’t understand.
“I was very surprised and confused at first,” she said. “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I won!”
For her prize, Amelia will receive $200. Mary said it will be up to her daughter to decide how to spend the money.
Amelia also was given a certificate and a simulated license plate print of her design, and she will be honored during the inaugural Fariborz Youssefirad Memorial Health Scholarship “FUN”d Raiser scheduled for June 15 at the Cotton Building.
Amelia’s design was chosen by popular vote from among several submissions, said Marie Youssefirad, who manages the nonprofit. Marie is the widow of the late Fariborz Youssefirad, who died in 2014 of complications from Type 2 diabetes.
The votes were cast during public viewing sessions on Dec. 22 and Jan. 5 at the Cotton Building, Youssefirad said.
“I heard many comments on the designs,” she said. “The children were very aware of how bad Type 2 diabetes is, and for the most part it was reflected in their designs.”
Marie said the contest was for kids and by kids. The main goal of the nonprofit is to help youngsters develop healthy living habits that will help prevent diabetes later in life.
“It is their future which will be impacted, and together we can make it either positive, happy and inspired, or we can continue to make excuses when we fail children by not doing enough,” she said. “My choice is empowerment, then it is up to them to make the most of that, and I know they will.”
Marie praised the creativity expressed in the submissions.
“All the entries were thoughtful and inspired,” she said. “Many people were moved by the depth of understanding, particularly because the average age was 8, with a few younger and a few older.”
Before Amelia’s license plate can be purchased and displayed on a vehicle, the organization needs to raise enough money to pay the $6,300 state fee, and it needs 3,500 signatures from supporters, Marie said.
“I am working to get this out to car dealerships now that there is a design, and with their cooperation, be able to get more signatures,” she said. “I still need the public to contact the legislators, and ask them to give their support to this first-of-its-kind program in our nation. Kindergarten through fourth grade schools generally, outside of Adventist schools and some private school settings, do not teach prevention or anything about Type 2 diabetes. Our children deserve no less.”
Marie has launched a GoFundMe page Jan. 19 to collect donations for the nonprofit. It is at https://www.gofundme.com/fymhsorg.
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization currently has three programs in the works to support its mission, including K-12 educational seminars for Washington state students to empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices; scholarship opportunities for well-qualified high school seniors and college students; and the creation of the new special-issue Washington state license plate to fund college scholarships.
Marie is working with Peninsula College and others to determine how students can apply for scholarships, which could range up to about $5,000.
For more information, visit fymhs.org.