When the American Diabetes Association held the Share Your Vision to Stop Diabetes® video contest during American Diabetes Month, it was the public that voted for the most compelling video. The grand prize winner was 10-year-old Anna Katherine Tollett, whose creative video won the hearts of thousands of voters. I recently had the chance to speak with Anna Katherine and her mom and dad.
Mom: Anna Katherine was diagnosed in October of 2008. She was only eight years old at the time. Anna Katherine had complained of a tummy-ache for two days. Because she had never been a malingerer, I decided to have this symptom checked out. At the time, I thought her symptoms may be the result of a food allergy or a virus. My worst-case scenario was appendicitis. After an examination, a urine analysis, and a finger prick, the doctor sent Anna Katherine and her brother out of the examination room and informed me, on a Tuesday, at 7:15 p.m., that Anna Katherine had diabetes.
Anna Katherine, what do you remember about that time?
Anna Katherine: When we came home, I was still not feeling well. My mom took me to the hospital. I don’t really remember much more about that night.
The next day we went to the hospital. I remember that I didn’t want to go, but my parents made me. I didn’t really know what I had. Being in the hospital was scary and tiring because they woke me up during the night to prick my fingers.
Do you know any other people with type 1 diabetes?
Anna Katherine: Yes, there are a few other kids at my school who have type 1.
Mom: But none of them are her age. Anna Katherine’s father has a 24-year-old cousin who was diagnosed when he was six years old. Although he lived in Chicago, two months after her diagnosis, he flew to Colorado to meet us and to ski with her. He was very instrumental in helping her give herself an injection for the first time and in helping her deal with her diagnosis.
What inspired you to participate in this video contest?
Anna Katherine: I did this to show people what I go through every day and, also, to give people the message that maybe not today, or tomorrow, but some day there will be a cure for diabetes.
Dad: The inspiration to make the video came from Anna Kate’s willingness to do everything that is asked of her to manage the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes with a positive attitude.
The time limit of 30 seconds doesn’t allow much time to show people what you go through every day – was there anything that you didn’t have time to include?
Anna Katherine: Yes, there was one line that we had to leave out:
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes
When I was the age of 8.
But I refuse to accept this condition
As my cruel and life-long fate.”
Dad: That stanza had to be taken out due to time constraints. The intent was to show a video clip of her doing the voice-over for this stanza. The camera shot was a close-up of her doing the voice-over with a head-set on. Her eyes really showed her intensity for the message and video project. Due to her slow southern drawl, this clip was the longest and had to be removed. Fortunately, we were able to get the “missing” stanza and video clip on camera for the two TV features by local CBS affiliate.
How did you write the poem?
Anna Katherine: It was a team effort to write the poem.
Dad: As Anna Kate’s dad, I have been so inspired by my daughter’s amazing grace and attitude towards the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. I have also been inspired by her mom’s unconditional willingness to help her manage this disease, and the wonderful encouragement of her 6-year-old brother, Jon Robert. The poem was written by me, along with editorial inputs from both Anna Katherine and her mom.
You had a few different types of displays in the video like stop animation, text, and a live shot of Anna Katherine. It seems to me like that would be more difficult to piece together. What was the reason for this?
Dad: Stop-motion animation was used for several reasons. I am a home video hobbyist and personally enjoy stop-motion animation, though I had never attempt to make a video of this type. First, I tried to create a very simple character that anyone with type 1 diabetes could relate to and see themselves as, complete with the hip and current rip-sticking seen in the first stanza. Second, I thought using stop-motion would help show a very serious part of living with diabetes, like finger-pricking and shots, without physically showing blood and the shot penetrating the skin.
We were afraid we would lose some folks who are squeamish toward viewing such things (Trypanophobia, I think). I thought bringing Anna Kate, the human element, in at the end would be a nice climax to the message. Her mother filmed this part, and really captured Anna Kate’s grace. I have been amazed at how many times some of our close friend’s young children watched the video, some of which even memorized the entire poem. We have had really positive feedback on the video, and tons of church and community support.
What was the best part of making the video?
Dad: The making of this video was a family affair. My favorite part of making the video was the morning Anna Kate did the voice-over. It took Anna Kate only one take! I knew the video would turn out special as I listened to the intensity, tone, and determination in her voice. Jon Robert and Anna Kate danced and sang into the mic once the voice-over work was completed. It was quite the show.
You really spread the word about the video. Were you nervous at first? What was the process like?
Anna Katherine: Yes, I was very nervous. I was scared at first talking in front of the church and in front of the news camera. I had never done that before, but I guess I got better at it. I was OK doing the video because I didn’t have a crowd watching me. It was just Mom and Dad.
I had a lot of help getting votes from my family, my friends, my church, the news, and people I didn’t even know.
Mom: I was very nervous about the whole process. As a mom, I had to come to terms with my child’s picture and name being on the internet and on a national platform. But I think the need for increased awareness trumped any concerns that I had.
We “campaigned” for Anna Katherine through a lot of word-of-mouth and a little arm-twisting—my mother, Anna Katherine’s “Honey,” did not allow a delivery person to leave her home until his vote had been cast for her granddaughter.
When her video was named as a Top Ten Finalist, Anna Katherine’s dad contacted our local newspapers and our local CBS affiliate. I contacted Anna Katherine’s school, our church, our college alumni foundations.
I also utilized my Facebook account as a great way to spread the word. I posted it the link to my Facebook page, friends then posted it to theirs, then my friends reported that their friends had posted it to theirs, and so forth. We used our e-mail lists and asked that people forward the information to their friends. It was amazing. So many family members and friends actively campaigned for her.
Other children living with diabetes who attend other schools in the parish campaigned for Anna Katherine, asking their families and friends to vote. We are truly blessed to live in a community that embraced Anna Katherine and her story with their support and their votes.
Since you won the video contest, has anything changed about how much you share or talk about when it comes to diabetes?
Anna Katherine: Yes, big time. Before I won the contest, kids I knew weren’t really interested in talking about diabetes. But, now that I won, they are asking me questions about it.
Mom: I am approached all the time by people who report that they voted for Anna Katherine. Many have told me that they received the information to vote through multiple sources, multiple times.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Anna Katherine: I think I want to be one of those people who worked with my doctor when I was diagnosed. A physician’s assistant or Certified Diabetes Educator.
[Blogger’s note: Anna Katherine turned the tables and asked me the following question. I was completely surprised, as no one has done that before, but I guess that’s part of the beauty of being a 10-year-old. This girl is going places!]
Now I have a question for you: Do you know how many votes I got?
Yes! In fact, you got a whopping 3,155 votes!
Okay, last question: If you could say one thing about diabetes, what would it be?
Anna Katherine: Diabetes is hard, but it is manageable. And people know should that people can get type 1 diabetes any day, anytime.
Dad: Though type 1 diabetes has to be managed constantly, through faith and a good attitude, one can experience life with no limitations.
Mom: We are so very proud of Anna Katherine. Although living with and managing Type 1 diabetes is a formidable around-the-clock challenge, Anna Katherine is not. In the face of this diagnosis and daily challenge, Anna Katherine has demonstrated strength, resilience, and most days—grace.
Thanks to the Tollett family for sharing their story, their hopes and dreams, and their Vision to Stop Diabetes. Here is the winning video: