COEUR d’ALENE — Hailie "Halo" Neufeld-Velasco is in her fourth year of turning the town blue for Type 1 diabetes awareness, and she has no plans to quit any time soon.
"It feels pretty good," she said Monday. "I like to be able to help people understand about diabetes and being able to spread awareness for it."
The Coeur d'Alene 13-year-old knows how scary it is to be diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She was only 8 when the diagnosis changed her whole world. She's since dedicated herself to raising awareness so other families have a clearer understanding of symptoms and don't mistake this life-altering condition for something like the flu or strep throat.
She also wants kids and families new to Type 1 diabetes to know support is all around them.
"If you don't know what something is and you make judgments on it, that can be heartbreaking to other people," Hailie said. "I feel like I'm a role model for younger kids."
At 6 p.m. Wednesday on The Coeur d'Alene Resort lawn at 115 S. Second St., Hailie and her crew from Halo's One Hope — the nonprofit she and her mom formed to offer support for newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetic families — will again witness The Resort lights turn blue in recognition of Coeur d'Alene's Diabetes Awareness Week.
"It’s to bring everybody together and let them know they’re not alone," said Hailie's mom, Lyndsey Neufeld. "We’re all going through this together."
Hailie will invite other kids with diabetes to join her on the stage to share their names, ages, when they were diagnosed and what they want to be when they grow up. Each child will receive bags of goodies that will include glucose necklaces.
"We already have 30 kids," Lyndsey said. "It's good that they're brave enough to come out."
Police officers and firefighters will make an appearance, sugar-free and regular cocoa will be available and a few prize giveaways will add to the excitement. Attendees will also get to hear from Hailie, who has a proclamation she shared with Coeur d'Alene City Council and Mayor Steve Widmyer.
Halo's One Hope also hosts Breakfast with Santa events to provide Christmas gifts for newly diagnosed kids whose families are struggling around the holidays.
"I'm hoping to have other events," Hailie said. "I’m hoping to bring it to Post Falls and places like that."
The Light up the Town Blue event is free. All are invited.
"We just continue to love to help her out," said Resort executive assistant Michelle Albertson. "It's just great."
Email email@example.com if you know a diabetic family that needs help or you want to donate. Those planning to attend Light up the Town Blue should dress warm.