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Youngster to lead Effingham Kiss-a-Pig effort
kiss a pig inside 1
Donning zombie makeup for the Diabetes Bites-themed kickoff to this years Kiss-a-Pig campaign, Abbey Brannen of Effingham County gets up-close with Fang the pig. Abbey will kiss Fang if she brings in the most money for the American Diabetes Association in this years fundraiser. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

Last year, Abbey Brannen helped her assistant principal at Ebenezer Elementary School, Dana Wright, raise the most money in the American Diabetes Association’s Kiss-a-Pig campaign.

This year, it’s Abbey’s turn to lead the Effingham County team.

Just 7 years old, Abbey is Effingham’s 2013 contestant for Kiss-a-Pig, the largest fundraiser of the year for ADA. It is a contest among community leaders in Southeast Georgia, and county leaders have participated since 2009 as the “Hams from Effingham” team.

“Abbey is the perfect candidate for the Kiss-a-Pig campaign,” said Wright, who is co-chairing Abbey’s effort along with Abbey’s mother, Johnsie Brannen. “She lives with this disease every day, and she can help other kids to learn about what diabetes is and how important it is for diabetics to take care of themselves.”

The captain of the team that raises the most money kisses a live pig, honored by ADA as the original source of insulin. Wright won last year by raising $29,144 for diabetes research and outreach.

Abbey and Johnsie joined other team captains for Saturday’s Kiss-a-Pig kickoff on River Street in Savannah. After they were introduced to the audience, Johnsie asked her daughter, “What do we want to do this year?”

“Kiss the pig!” Abbey exclaimed, to applause from the crowd.

Abbey was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was only 21 months old. Her family has been active in the American Diabetes Association ever since, and Johnsie is a local board member.

“Whatever it takes, I will do it for Abbey as long as I’ve got breath in me,” Johnsie said.

Abbey had fun at the Kiss-a-Pig kickoff, wearing zombie makeup for the 2013 campaign theme, “Diabetes Bites: Sink Your Teeth into a Cure.” But she shared a serious message.

“I hope to raise the most money for research for diabetes and hopefully a cure someday soon,” Abbey said.

To manage her diabetes, Abbey wears a pump that gives her insulin injections continuously throughout the day. Also, she is seen every three to four months by her pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Christopher Houk, who has inspired a possible career choice for her.

“When I grow up, I want to be an endocrinologist so that I can help diabetics like myself,” Abbey said.

Johnsie Brannen was the campaign manager of Wright’s campaign last year, and Abbey was actively involved. She often accompanied her mother when she visited local businesses to request donations.

“They look at a child’s face and they say, ‘Oh, she’s got diabetes?’” Johnsie said. “I say ‘yes,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll be glad to donate.’”

So are Abbey’s classmates. One of last year’s fundraisers was a coin drive at Ebenezer Elementary.

“They raised $3,000 in four days on coins alone,” Johnsie said.

The school will have the coin drive again this year and several other fundraisers, Johnsie said. Fundraisers will be held at Effingham County’s other schools and throughout the community.

“The kids in her class take it all so personal because it’s Abbey and they want to bring in more,” Johnsie said. “They did a fundraiser recently — ‘hunting for a cure.’ They all dressed up in camo and they raised over $500 doing that on a Friday.”

Anyone can donate to Abbey’s campaign, which runs until the Kiss-a-Pig celebration May 11 in Savannah. There, the representative of the winning team will pucker up and kiss “Fang” the pig.

“Abbey is amazing and I am honored to help her to get to kiss the pig this year,” Wright said.

Kiss-a-Pig campaign
To support Abbey Brannen’s Kiss-a-Pig campaign for the American Diabetes Association, visit and click on her photo.