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Former NFL Player Donates Service Dog to Teenager After Students Host Fundraiser

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Though I’ve had friends and acquaintances who’ve needed to deal with diabetes, it took me a while to realize just how serious the disease was. Sure, I knew that it could lead to strokes, heart damage, coma, and death.

But I didn’t understand how it could become a round-the-clock concern. Arlington, Texas, teen Payton Stevens has had to live with that reality for years.

The high-school baseball player not only has to manage his blood sugar, he also needs to deal with his cystic fibrosis. That became a 24/7 job for his family — a job that, if neglected, could lead to him slipping into a coma while sleeping.

“One of us goes to bed a little bit earlier than the other,” John Stevens, Payton’s father, told KDFW. “The other one stays up and checks his blood before we go to bed.

“And the other one wakes up at 2 o’clock in the morning to check his blood, and do it again when you wake up at 4 to go to work.” There was an easier solution, but it was pricey.

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Specially trained service dogs can smell changes in blood sugar and rouse caregivers when levels drop too low. However, purchasing and training them typical runs about $35,000, a prohibitive cost for the Stevens family.

So Molly Davis, Payton’s classmate at Grace Prep Academy, stepped up with a 12-hour dance-a-thon fundraiser to help him raise the money.

“I was like, ‘Let’s put together a fundraiser and get him the $35,000 that he needs to get the diabetes dog before he gets to college,’” she said.

Then the unthinkable happened: A KDFW news story about the event caught the eye of former Dallas Cowboy tight end and three-time Super Bowl winner Jay Novacek.

It turned out that Novacek and his wife, Amy, breed service dogs on their Texas ranch. What’s more, dealing with diabetes is a cause near and dear to their hearts.

“We have close family members that live with diabetes,” Amy Novacek explained to the North Texas Office of the American Diabetes Association. “We have seen what they go through to deal with this disease, and it has reinforced our commitment to finding a cure.”

The Novaceks decided to donate one of their dogs to Payton. And though it will take a full year of training before the animal can truly help him, there’s now a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

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“They’ll get to sleep a whole entire night, which is amazing,” Amy Novacek said. “And for a parent, it’s tough when you’re worried about if your kid’s gonna be alive in the morning.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
Education
Wheaton College
Location
Florida
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Entertainment, Faith, Travel




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