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Hayes to lead Kiss-a-Pig campaign
0228 KAP kickoff Mimi Hayes
Mimi Hayes - photo by Photo provided

For the fifth year in a row, Effingham County will have a participant in the Kiss-a-Pig campaign, the largest fundraiser of the year for the American Diabetes Association.

Mimi Hayes, a language arts teacher at Effingham County High School, is this year’s team captain for Effingham County. Hayes lives with diabetes, and lost her sister and both parents to the disease.

“Diabetes has devastated my entire family, and I want to do everything in my power to create awareness and raise funds to help people living with this serious disease,” she said.

The 2014 Kiss-a-Pig campaign will kick off on Saturday at 4 p.m. on the stage of Wild Wing Cafe in Savannah’s City Market. The event is free and open to the public.

This year’s candidates will make their grand entrances and be introduced to the public. With the theme of “InstaHam,” this year’s campaign will use social media to spread diabetes awareness and promote candidate events in the region.

In keeping with the social media theme, a YouTube video is circulating with a song “Oink,” to the tune of Madonna’s “Vogue,” in advance of the press conference. Lyrics will be passed out and people will be encouraged to sing along.

Hayes and her Hamland team – a spoof of the television show “Homeland” — will compete against other regional teams in the popular fundraiser for diabetes research, advocacy and education. The contestant who raises the most money will kiss a live pig, honored by ADA as the original source of insulin.

Hayes is continuing the Effingham County School System’s involvement in Kiss-a-Pig. Effingham’s first contestant was board of education member Troy Alford.

In 2011, Effingham County Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse finished as first runner-up with $19,554 raised for ADA. A year later, Ebenezer Elementary Assistant Principal Dana Wright won and kissed the pig by raising $29,144.

Effingham’s 2013 representative was 7-year-old Abbey Brannen, a student at Ebenezer Elementary who lives with type 1 diabetes. Abbey’s team brought in $21,943.

All told, Effingham County has raised more than $80,500 for the American Diabetes Association in the past four years.

Wright will be part of Hayes’ Hamland team, along with fellow educators Kate Blaske, Regina Blewett, Eleasha Donaldson, Henry Heller, Joan Hightower, Latoya Jones, Susan Lancaster, Martina Morris, Melissa Roddenberry, R. Glenn Smith Jr. and Sherri Walsh.

Hayes’ sister, former Ebenezer Middle School Principal Ramona Lovett, died of diabetes complications at the age of 34. Before she died, she lost her right foot, went into renal failure and then diabetes attacked her liver, Hayes said.

Three months after Lovett’s death, Hayes’ father died at the wheel while driving to the store to purchase insulin. He was only 65.

Seven months later, her mother, Brenda Lovett, a former principal at Sand Hill Elementary, died of a ruptured heart valve due to diabetes. Six years before she died, diabetes had robbed her of her sight.

Hayes was diagnosed with diabetes when she was just 34 years old.

“I want to reach out to the community with the message of prevention, early detection and good management to prevent an early death,” Hayes said. “Diabetes is a life and death matter, and we hope by being part of this campaign, we can make people pay attention. We use humor through Kiss-a-Pig because it draws attention, but we are really talking about a very serious thing.”

The public can follow the 22nd annual Kiss-a-Pig campaign on Facebook at Insta Ham, on Twitter at instaHAM_2014 and on Instagram at instaham2014.

For more information about the American Diabetes Association or how to help Hayes and the Hamland team, contact Maria Center at or (912) 353-8110, ext. 3091.