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Kiss-a-Pig to hold kick-off session
0201 Kiss A Pig - Abbey Brannen
Abbey Brannen - photo by Photo provided

The Effingham County School District is already one of the biggest supporters of the American Diabetes Association’s annual Kiss-a-Pig fundraiser, and now the ADA is looking to get the rest of the Effingham community on board.

The Kiss-a-Pig campaign, the largest fundraiser of the year for the American Diabetes Association, will kick off with an information session Feb. 5 at 4:30 p.m. at Baibry’s in Rincon. The session is free and open to anyone who wants to learn how they can help Effingham contestant Abbey Brannen.

Kiss-a-Pig is a regional contest among community leaders. The captain of the team that raises the most money kisses a live pig, honored by ADA as the original source of insulin.

Effingham County began competing with its own team — the “Hams of Effingham” — in 2009, with a local education leader at the helm each year. The ADA hopes more Effingham community leaders will follow the school system’s lead and join the cause.

“We want to try to involve the community at large,” said Maria Center, the ADA’s Southeast Georgia/Coastal South Carolina director. “We would like to broaden the base. We know diabetes is something that affects a lot of people there.”

Effingham County Board of Education Vice Chair Troy Alford led the county’s inaugural campaign in 2009, and the “Hams” raised $11,000. Schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse was the runner-up a year later with a total of $19,554, and Ebenezer Elementary School assistant principal Dana Wright kissed the pig last year after raising $29,144.

Abbey Brannen is 7 years old and attends Ebenezer Elementary. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only 21 months old.

“Ever since Abbey was diagnosed, we have been very outspoken about her diabetes in the hopes of helping others,” said Abbey’s mother and campaign manager, Johnsie Brannen. “Diabetes is invisible, and that’s what makes it so scary — you can’t see what is going on inside the body. People don’t take it seriously, and it is very serious if people do not have it under control.”

Johnsie Brannen has worked with the ADA for several years and is a member of the local board. She said she is thankful for the ADA’s efforts to educate people and to support families who are living with diabetes.

“The insulin pump my daughter wears was developed directly as a result of research funded by American Diabetes Association,” she said. “The same goes for the blood glucose meter; these things have not always existed. It takes money and scientists who are supported by research grants from ADA to make all these things happen.”

How to get involved
Attend the American Diabetes Association’s Kiss-a-Pig information session on Feb. 5 at 4:30 p.m. at Baibry’s in Rincon, or contact Maria Center at 912-353-8110, ext. 3091 or