Red Alert: Dogs save Lives

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Rachel Faulkner writes, Arapahoe, COLORADO? Mark Rinkel of Arapahoe has had a long life for a 13-year-old.

Arapahoe, COLORADO? Mark Rinkel of Arapahoe has had a long life for a 13-year-old. He has already had to deal with fraud, diabetes nearly claiming the life of his brother, appearing on TV, and being recognized all over America as a hero. It all started with Mark’s concern for his younger brother, Jason, age eleven, who has Type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. Diabetics can damage blood vessels, cause heart problems, and even lead to severe shock or even death.Mark describes his brother as a “human pincushion”, delicate and still undergoing treatment even two years after his diagnoses. So he decided to raise money to buy his brother a dog, which was specially trained to help detect problems in Jason’s blood sugar levels. Or so he thought. For an entire summer, Mark worked tirelessly to raise the money for the dog. By selling lemonade, he made $17,000, which was the required sum. Excitedly, he paid the fee. When the dog arrived, if it detected a problem in Jason’s blood sugar, it would go into alert. An alert might be licking, pacing, or jump up and down. The dog finally arrived, but then something went horribly wrong. About a month after the dog’s purchase, Jason’s blood sugar malfunctioned, endangering his life. The dog, which was supposed to detect this, did nothing. That was when Mark realized it had all been a trick to steal money (a scam). “How would you feel someone stole $17,000 from you?” he said, frustrated even months after the realization sunk in. But Mark was not to be shot down that quickly. His story gained the attention of an unnamed family, who donated another, thoroughly trained, service dog. A new dog was welcomed to the Rinkel family, named “Red” for his rich color. Then, something monumental happened. Mark was awarded a national scholarship, and that inspired him to start his own charity foundation, Red Alert Dogs. So far, Mark has helped 16 families get trained dogs. As his mother writes, ” Every kid has the power to change the world .”If you’re trying to start your own charity, Mark gives the simplest advice: “You just gotta do it. It’s like making a snowball; it starts out small and just gets bigger.”

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