BLUFFTON — Jena Diller has no memory of a time when she didn’t have a sibling with Type 1 diabetes. Her older sister was diagnosed at age 12, her younger brother at age 4.
Watching their everyday struggles is what pushed the Bluffton University junior to raise awareness of the disease. She will be recognized for her work tonight.
“I saw them poke themselves with needles every day, and I see the physical scars they have just from putting so many needles in,” she said. “It made me sit back and realize I am very, very fortunate I’m not one of the two kids in our family that are diabetic.”
Diller, of Columbus Grove, will receive the 2013 Service-Learning Leadership Award from the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges tonight during a ceremony in Columbus.
In addition to her siblings, two grandparents and an uncle are also diabetic. Her uncle died in 2012.
“It all just kind of piled up, and I feel very fortunate that I do not have diabetes, but I feel it is one of my duties to stand up for them and all people who do have diabetes and can’t do anything about it,” said Diller, the daughter of Jon and Lisa Diller.
Her work began by going to health fairs with her mother, a certified diabetes coordinator, and doing local walks for diabetes with her family.
In November, Jena Diller planned and coordinated a walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Within two weeks, participants in 10 states walked more than 5.5 million steps, or about 2,290 miles. Walking more than 600 of those miles were campus community members at Bluffton, where Diller organized a 10-hour walk in the university’s newly-opened Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education.
“I can attest to Jena’s positive impact on our campus community, including raising our awareness of juvenile diabetes and contributing to our personal fitness,” Bluffton President James Harder said in the letter he wrote nominating Diller for the award.
Diller, a marketing major, also developed “The Color of Christmas,” a project aimed at providing art and coloring items to children’s hospitals and pediatric clinics at Christmas. Columbus Grove High School’s Student Council helped collect more than 700 items.
When Jenna accepts her award tonight, she won’t be thinking of herself.
“I could care less about if this ever goes on a resume,” she said. “For me, it is what I am doing for my siblings, my grandparents, my uncle and the millions of people who have this disease and have to face it every single day. It is for them.”