Hadley is only 17 years old and yet TWO YEARS ago, this firecracker of a young girl set up her own foundation to help other teens like her with type one diabetes.
Bright and confident beyond her years, I met her and her two fantastic sisters in the bustling kitchen of their home. Amongst dogs, kids, family and lots of mayhem, as enthusiastic women shopped my collection in the next door room, Hadley stood out.
But it has not been an easy journey. In her early teens Hadley had felt isolated and overwhelmed, not only finding her way becoming a teenager but one crippled with diabetes.
Later when we interview her and her Mum via Facetime, Hadley is the one who commands the interview. Her mother sits by her side throughout , mostly silent, sweetly smoothing Hadley’s hair, always supportive.
Hadley was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was four. She doesn’t remember it and until she was a teenager her parents managed her condition. “They did everything.” Yet her mother wanted her to become independent as soon as possible and encouraged Hadley to take over the management of her diabetes (monitoring her blood sugar levels, her carb intake and her insulin requirements). But when Hadley hit 13 she rebelled. “I started to deny that I had the disease. I wanted my body to be like everyone else’s. So I started to ignore my condition and I got quite sick.”
“I could see that Hadley was suffering and upset” says her Mum, “and I knew that handing over the power was proving hard for her but I didn’t want to be the nagging mum saying ‘have you checked your blood sugar?’ all the time. It’s a tricky balance. Her results were not so good. I didn’t blame her. It’s a hard thing to take on.”
Hadley felt lonely managing her condition without anyone else her age with her condition to talk to. So one morning at breakfast Hadley brought down a proposal, all sketched out on paper for her mum to see. Her new big plan was to set up a focus for teens who suffered the same disease; a monthly diary of social get togethers that could help others like her survive their teen years with diabetes.
Hadley set up a website, then put the message out on Facebook and “Type One Teens” was born.
Hadley worked hard for her foundation, she made flyers, mailed them to other schools, she approached the principals of 13 high schools and emailed diabetic counsellors in the area. The juvenile diabetes research foundation at her local hospital helped her get the word out and in April 2013 a group of Type One Teens met and went bowling and ate pizza together.
One year later, Hadley realised that getting teens to attend regular monthly meetings can be hard so, “knowing how much teens love to dance” she set up a teen gala, spearheading “Believe in Blue“, the colour of National Diabetes Awareness month, to coincide with the initiative in November. Hadley, with the energy, foresight and organisational skills that would put any event organiser twice her age to shame, secured an inspirational keynote speaker, a great DJ, a fab venue and a vendor fair that would bring the latest diabetic care technology into the hands of any curious teen that cared to look.
The event was a huge success. Hadley’s goal was 80 teens and she got over 200. They made a profit, and danced to the bitter end. And so she is doing it all again this year.
It’s quite breath-taking that she has achieved so much already. And the future? Hadley answers the question without a second’s hesitation: “Actually I really want to be a counsellor but I think I will want to also volunteer in the non-profits world, working with diabetes…”
Hadley has certainly done something extraordinary with her life….. and all before her eighteenth birthday.
For more information visit Hadley’s website: http://www.typeoneteens.com/