No Wonder Wendy LaFrance Walks for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

In neighborhoods all over the world, there are always special mothers who open their hearts and homes for children of all ages. Wendy LaFrance is one of those moms: loving, supportive and blessed to be around kids. She’s sometimes called “second mom.”

Because Wendy is constantly on the go, getting her daughter, Katie, 12, to competitive tennis matches all over the South, she keeps an eye on many active kids. On a recent vacation with several other families, she realized the schedule of activities included a zip-line that had many wires to conquer and lessons in surfing, so she jumped in to do everything her young troopers did, for a reason. She wanted to make sure all the children were strapped in, helmets on and anything else she could think of.

When she is home in Little Rock, she volunteers at Episcopal Collegiate School. She was a kindergarten teacher for eight years in Pine Bluff, so she feels helping teachers is something she can do. Wendy doesn’t mind staying in the background. However, her husband, Stephen LaFrance, Jr., executive vice president of USA Drug, asked her to help co-chair the Central Arkansas 2011 Walk Over the Big Dam Bridge to Cure Diabetes.

How could she say no to her husband? The couple grew up together in Pine Bluff. Wendy lovingly calls it a Mayberry-type of town; everyone knew everyone else. Both graduated from the University of Arkansas. They were married in Pine Bluff and moved to Little Rock 12 years ago.

One of the reasons they said yes to co-chairing the walk is because Stephen’s father, Stephen LaFrance, Sr., has diabetes. Their other reasons are the many children and parents they know who also have diabetes.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, type 2 diabetes is the most common and often can be controlled by changing life choices. It is a metabolic disorder; the pancreas works, just not well. Type 2 diabetes is most often found in adults, but the diagnosis in children is becoming more common. People with type 2 should watch their sugar intake.

Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes is not well understood by the public. Type 1 strikes suddenly, most often in childhood. However, adults may also be diagnosed with type 1. It is an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to not work at all. People with type 1 must put insulin into their body to live. Type 1 diabetics must check their blood sugar level six to eight times a day by pricking their finger; if they are high, they correct the level as needed by giving themselves insulin by shot, pen or pump. If they are low, they eat or drink something. People with type 1 can eat sugar; however, they must count the carbohydrates in all food they intend to eat and give themselves insulin accordingly.

The LaFrances expect 4,000 participants to raise critical dollars and walk 5 kilometers over the Big Dam Bridge and back to raise money for diabetes research. There will be interactive games for children of all ages, as well as food and fun for everyone. Stephen and Wendy will be there with their daughter and lots of friends. The event begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Murray Park/Big Dam Bridge. Last year approximately $345,000 was raised, according to a JDRF spokesman.

Companies can support the event by serving as sponsors or forming walk teams made up of employees and their families and friends to raise much-needed dollars. To offer to participate in any way, call the JDRF office at 217-0321 or email




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