As this year’s Effingham County candidate for the annual Kiss-A-Pig campaign, Mimi Hayes wanted to raise awareness about diabetes — along with money to fight it.
The Effingham County High School language arts teacher finished as second runner-up in the Savannah American Diabetes Association’s annual fundraising campaign, which concluded Saturday night. Hayes and her team amassed $24,318.93, the most by any team not based in Savannah.
“The campaign was so exciting for me,” Hayes said. “I really wanted to create awareness in the community and I wanted to impress into everyone’s mind that this is a very serious, debilitating disease, one that cannot be taken lightly. And it affects all ages.”
Hayes and her team held a Miss ADA pageant and at the end of it, a slide show featured community members ranging from age 5 to 60 who have diabetes.
“When the audience saw that slide show, that really sent the message that disease affects all ages,” Hayes said. “And it’s not something that can be taken lightly. You have to find out whether or not you have it, especially if it runs in your family.”
Hayes herself was diagnosed with diabetes in 2005. Her sister, Dr. Ramona Lovett, died in 2011 from complications from diabetes. Diabetes also led to the deaths of her father and mother in 2012.
“It starts with awareness,” she said. “I was just so excited to be given the opportunity to create more awareness in our community. You’re at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, amputations. And it is very personal for me.”
Effingham’s candidate last year, 7-year-old Abbey Brannen, also finished as second runner-up. So Hayes knew going into the campaign she had metaphorically big, if not literally so, shoes to fill.
“It has been fun,” she said. “It was a lot of pressure because all of the previous chairpersons did wonderful jobs, raising awareness and coming up with so many creative fundraisers. When they passed on the banner to me, I wanted to make them proud. So it was a lot of pressure and a lot of fun.”
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, which competes on its own, raised more than $51,000. The winner among the competing teams was Phi Pigma Kappa, a coalition of Savannah businesswoman who raised more than $70,000. The Savannah Boar Association, a team of attorneys, was first runner-up with $52,605 raised.
“I want to thank everyone in the community who helped make this Kiss-a-Pig campaign a success,” Hayes said.