Health and Fitness

They raise money for diabetes research by hosting picnics

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Ava Ramsankar, 13, left, and her brother Aiden, 12, host parties to raise money for diabetes research. The pair of entrepreneurs recently set up their picnic-themed party at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek. Aiden was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

cjuste@miamiherald.com

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When 12-year-old Aiden Ramsankar was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2019, his family was shocked. His sister, Ava, however, saw an opportunity.

The daughter of an entrepreneur, she and her brother would sell fidget spinners and lemonade door to door in their neighborhood. Following her brother’s diagnosis, she started Sweet Sentiments.

Sweet Sentiments makes money by throwing picnics for special occasions such as anniversaries or birthdays. The siblings get instructions from the clients, and they work with them to design a themed picnic to their specifications. The picnics generally range from eight to 10 people and are hosted outdoors in public parks. The children then donate the proceeds to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

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Sweet Sentiments is the business started by Ava and Aiden Ramsankar, the children of a small business owner. Their picnics, which can be hosted in many different themes, help them raise funds for UM’s Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

“I saw my uncle, he did a picnic and I thought it was really cool,” 13-year-old Ava Ramsankar said. “I thought, I could do that and raise money for Type 1.”

Type 1 diabetes, which usually affects children and young adults, is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin or makes very little of it. People with Type 1 must constantly monitor their blood sugar level.

For Aiden, the challenges of navigating a life with Type 1 diabetes came during sports.

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Aiden Ramsankar plays with the family dog as his sister Ava prepares for a picnic. They created their Sweet Sentiments business to raise funds for UM’s Diabetes Research Institute Foundation after Aiden was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

“Before Type 1, I could just do sports like freely,” he said. “Then with Type 1…I would have to come off the field then my parents would quickly check my finger to make sure that I can keep playing.”

He now wears a glucose monitoring device made by Dexcom, which continuously monitors his blood sugar levels and sends the readings to his parents’ phone, meaning he doesn’t have to leave the field unless it’s an emergency.

Although modern technology has made life easier, there still is no cure. About 5 to 10 percent of the 34 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the United States have Type 1 diabetes.

When the siblings were deciding where to donate the proceeds from Sweet Sentiments, they settled on the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation because of its focus on finding a cure.

“I have one job and that’s to lose my job,” said Sean Kramer, the CEO of the Foundation. “And the only way that’s going to happen is if the researchers get the funding that they need and they can find a cure.”

Around 40% of that funding comes from individual families hosting events such as the Sweet Sentiments’ picnics.

Dr. David Baidal, an assistant professor of medicine at the Foundation, treats patients who have advanced forms of Type 1 diabetes and conducts research on the disease.

“About 1.6 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes…and it is a very costly disease, that can be a life-threatening disease,” Baidal said. “The only thing that allows research to move forward is funding. We owe patients a cure for this devastating disease.”

This story was originally published November 24, 2021 6:00 AM.





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