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This child turned her health scare into art that rocks

Posted at 12:56 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 18:24:44-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tara Gray and her daughter Cassie bond over bold colors and a singular message. The mother and daughter duo’s after-school art project is simple. And while painting rocks is nothing new, this pair has life-saving intentions. On their canvases awareness about the pitfalls of a chronic illness that can kill.

Two years ago, when she was just 10-years-old, Cassie fell seriously ill.

“You lose weight. Definitely lose a lot of weight that is what happened to me. My eyes sunk in and I looked like a skeleton,” Cassie said.

She was rushed to the hospital.

RVA Rocks Type 1 Diabetes

“So you immediately go through the memory Rolodex. What did I miss,” Tara said. “It is a hard pill to swallow. You feel bad. You really do.”

On October 20, 2019, doctors diagnosed Cassie with Type 1 Diabetes.

“It takes a lot of work. It takes the carefree childhood innocence away,” Tara said.

T1D is life long disease with no known cure. For parents Paul and Tara, their daughter’s diagnosis was devastating.

“Every parent's fear of Type 1 is that they’re going to die in their sleep,” Tara said.

With her pancreas failing, Cassie's blood sugar soars and drops.

“She has taken on a new life. This is her life now,” Tara said.

Cassie must inject herself with insulin while monitoring what she eats and drinks every meal.

RVA Rocks Type 1 Diabetes

Paul and Tara said it was a lot for someone Cassie’s age to shoulder.

“She has accepted it and this is her life. A lot of days she’ll tell you it is hard. I’m 46 years old and I don’t think I could deal with it,” Paul said.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in America, 200,000 young people like Cassie are living with T1D.

“I (inject myself) in my stomach because I can’t reach around to my arm so I do it in my stomach,” Cassie said.

Two years later, Cassie is adjusting to her new normal, which brings us to their backyard art project.

In a partnership with members of RVA Rocks, their handiwork will be placed in parks and trails.

“Somebody somewhere has read them which is really cool,” Tara said.

RVA Rocks Type 1 Diabetes

They don’t expect any blue ribbons for their creations.

“They are not beautiful,” Tara admitted. “They’re not. I know they’re not.”

But through mini-messages Tara and Cassie wanted others to be aware of T1D. It is a mission that is solid as stone.

“If the right person picks it up,” Tara said. “It could really save a life. I mean really truly it could.”

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Click here if you would like information about Tara and Cassie’s campaign or RVA Rocks.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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