Heading into sixth grade at Walnut Elementary School, students Ellie Hart and Peyton Bruce share a lot of things, from laughs at recess to answers on their homework. The most difficult thing they’ve had to face in their young lives is also something they share, and remarkably, the one thing that brought them together in the first place — their Type 1 diabetes diagnoses.
About three and a half years ago, Ellie was diagnosed with diabetes and stayed in the hospital for a short period of time. While there, the doctor insisted that she meet another diabetes patient who happened to be exactly the same age. When Ellie eventually did meet the young girl, Peyton, the two hit it off immediately.
“They instantly had a connection,” Ellie’s mom Emily Hart said. “Peyton was such a good role model with using her pump and with helping Ellie feel like she could do this.”
When she met Ellie, Peyton had been diagnosed with diabetes for about a year and a half. She was diagnosed with the disease on her sixth birthday, and although she was young when she met her friend Ellie, she didn’t hold back on advice for her new companion.
“At the time I was only seven, but I told her all of the things that I did like about having it and all of the things I didn’t like,” Peyton said.
“Having a friend to share that with makes all the difference in the world,” Peyton’s mom Sarah Bruce added.
Now, Ellie hopes to flip the script and give Peyton advice of her own.
After her diagnosis, the local community rallied together in 2015 to raise funds for Ellie to obtain a Diabetic Alert dog that could ultimately save her life. Today, Ellie has had her service dog Poppy for about a year and a half and is hoping to see Peyton enjoy the same safety and freedom that comes with a Diabetic Alert dog through helping the Bruce family raise the funds.
“The community just poured their hearts out for us and we had never experienced anything like that. We decided that we had to give back, too,” Emily said. “There are no words to explain how blessed we felt, and Peyton just so happened to be the perfect person that we could give back to.”
The Hart family began raising money for Peyton to get a service dog in May, first hosting a garage sale, then a jog-a-thon and on Tuesday a pizza and frozen treat fundraiser in partnership with Rita’s Italian Ice and the Pizza Factory in Turlock. In total, $25,000 will need to be raised for Peyton to get a dog of her own.
Poppy was ordered by the Hart family from Alert Service Dogs of Indianapolis, Ind., and was specifically trained from puppyhood to react to the chemical change produced by blood sugar highs and lows. Poppy typically gives three to four alerts when she senses Ellie is experiencing a high or a low, Emily said, pawing, licking or barking to alert the family that there is a problem.
“She makes me feel safe,” Ellie said. “Knowing that technology’s not always right, there’s always the fear that I’ll go low and no one will know and I could go into a coma. But the dog, she’s on it!”
Peyton said that she hopes enough funds are raised for her to get a service dog so that one day, she and Ellie can walk side by side throughout Walnut’s halls, four-legged guardians in tow. While Ellie is of course excited for Peyton to finally have some comfort when it comes to her condition, she’s also happy at the thought of her friend experiencing the wonders of pet ownership.
“I just think it’s going to be nice for her to feel the joy of having a dog,” Ellie said.
Those who would like to donate to Peyton and Ellie’s cause can visit www.youcaring.com/peytonbruce-1002494.