Since he was a toddler, Logan Merwin in Connecticut has had a love for cars that's evolved from playing with Hot Wheels to big dreams of monster truck racing when he grows up. He's also been living with type 1 since just 17 months old, so it's all he's ever known. Through his family's advocacy efforts, this 11-year-old has a unique chance to channel his passion for cars into raising the profile of diabetes across the country.
Last year, Logan made the news for being the inspiration behind something dubbed "New England's First Type 1 Awareness Racing Truck." Local truck driver and team owner Tony Lafo Racing and their sponsor American Sign Motorsports took Logan's story to heart by creating the Fueled By Insulin campaign to support the beloved Children With Diabetes organization. Longtime racer Lafo designed this cool diabetes-themed #82 Ford F-150 Pro-Truck to race all around New England before retiring it at the end of last season.
As it happens, May 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the birth of Hot Wheels toy cars from Mattel, which brought Logan the chance to embrace his dream of someday becoming a Hot Wheels designer too.
Today, we're thrilled to share an interview with Logan's devoted D-Mom Samantha, all about the awesome stuff they've got going on now.
Talking Diabetes, Racing and Hot Wheels with D-Mom Samantha Merwin
DM) Hey Sam! Of course we're going to ask you to start by sharing Logan’s diagnosis story...
SM) Logan was diagnosed July 11, 2008, and is now 10 years old, and next summer we’re planning great things for his 10-year dia-versary in June 2018.
As a baby, he was always playful with us, energetic and ready to start his day. He had his 15-month pediatrician check and had been sick right afterwards for days. He recovered, but a couple of weeks later at 16 months we noticed that he was eating less and drinking more. He was filling diapers constantly and withdrawn. Over the course of a couple more weeks he stopped eating anything but small snacks. We still thought it was one of those kid’s phases but grew more anxious when we were at a birthday party and he wouldn't play or connect with the kids; he just kept drinking and hanging around us.
We called the pediatricians office 3 days later because when he started sleeping several hours later every morning, we knew something was wrong -- as he was always like he is now, jumping up ready to start his day. We asked for an appointment later that week but thankfully they recognized the symptoms and called us back to come in that same night. They were literally waiting for us, whisked us in, pricked his finger and sent us to the children’s hospital. We caught it early as he wasn't in DKA yet, his blood sugar was in the higher 500's so we didn't have to get admitted.
What a scary transition to have to make...
Yes, we went back and forth for a few days getting educated on what we would now have to do to keep him alive. Those first three months were a rough road until we put him on a pump. He hated the shots and it was mentally draining on all of us to do them.
Anyone else in the family with diabetes?
No one else in my family has it, but my husband’s brother was diagnosed with type 1 when he was in college, in his early 20's.
Did that create a special bond between Logan and his uncle, and how is your brother-in-law doing these days with his T1D?
I wish they lived closer so we could have free, safe babysitting! We have no relatives within close geography here. When they see each other during our annual visits to Chicago, they definitely have their own conversations about type 1 and they definitely do test together.
It seems you're creating an extended online family with your blogging. Can you share the story behind the Elbow Bump Kid blog?
Logan was trying to think of a catchy fundraising name or slogan when he started fundraising for Children with Diabetes (CWD) in 2016, and he decided on elbowbumpchallenge, which turned into elbowbumpkid -- since he bumped the most elbows EVER at the FFL events! Pretty funny, but he's known for it in school as well. They usually shake hands when entering the classroom, and Logan has been elbow bumping instead every year. Here's our very first blog post, about the origin of the elbow bump.
We understand Logan's also a runner, doing 5K and 10K events. How did he get started with that?
Logan wouldn't play team sports until second grade and his favorite part of soccer, etc., was always the running. We had a running club at school that year and he loved it. That started his love for running. I wish we had more time in the day to have him practice more; we rarely have time for more than a mile after school.
Does diabetes get in the way when he’s running?
His diabetes does slow him down with running occasionally but mostly it's the combo of that with his asthma. We really have to prep well for both diseases or it's disastrous, as we have experienced! He did a great job in the Disney 5K running for JDRF in January, and he recently ran the 5K for JDRF and the 10K for Children With Diabetes in January 2018.
Wow, most adults train really intensely for those events. What does Logan's training regime look like?
Logan isn't out of school until mid-June, so right now, he trains in a running club on Thursdays and whatever we can do on weekends. We plan to do a practice 5K each month starting in May to gear up for January, slow and steady at first. My biggest challenge is figuring out the minimum I have to carry with me; his supplies weighed me down a lot. When we practice locally, I usually just toss the bag down somewhere but having it on me the whole time was a lot of weight (EpiPens, inhaler, smarties, juice, Dexcom, meter, and so on). We have been concentrating on the fundraising part right now, planning events to fundraise to meet his goals.
And how did he first develop such a love for cars?
He’s always been into cars in some form; he used to sleep with a Hot Wheel in his hand when he was 2 -- a little gold car. When we lost power during Hurricane Sandy for days, we piled Hot Wheels outside our house and let him race them down our walkway. He was into monster trucks and classic cars for a while as well. While the Hot Wheels phase died down for a bit, it came back in full force over the past year. For a school project last year, he pulled the town tax records on cars listed registered in town, then sat in center of town recording cars that drove by to see if it matched with town records.
He also decided last year that he was saving to buy a Lamborghini when he's 18, so as he gets money he goes to the bank (with whatever he doesn't spend) and deposits it. He's pretty dedicated to that. We ran into a dealer when we were in London and he was able to get a pic or two up close!
That’s awesome! Any specific plans to go into racing when he gets older?
Since he was around 4, Logan decided he was going to be a monster truck driver on the weekends when he grows up. His main job will be running the hotel he plans on building and working at his bank. Or as a coin inspector for one of the federal mints. He can't decide... then again, he’s (young). But it's always something involved with cars on the weekends. Who knows with this kid, anything is possible!
Tell us more about Logan's love for Hot Wheels...?
We just wrapped up a weekend where we partnered with a venue that was celebrating Hot Wheels 50th Anniversary with some famous people there. Due to a relationship Logan has bridged with a Hot Wheels designer, Randy’s Wooster St. Pizza shop (an iconic Hot Wheels hangout) put together a silent auction for Logan’s JDRF fundraising and raised $3,000.
There was an amazing life-size hot wheel Twin Mill, kids races that kept my son and his friend entertained for hours, a vending machine with Hot Wheels in it, Hot Wheels trivia contest and so much more. As many know, Logan wants to be a Hot Wheels designer. At this event, he signed autographs for people just like a famous designer would. Logan was in heaven and felt so special, especially spending so much time with his mentor Larry Wood (a renowned Hot Wheels designer). He loved trading Hot Wheels with everyone, and I was truly touched by this entire group that had never met him before and welcomed him like he was one of their family.
This newspaper story sums up their meeting pretty well, about how Logan and Larry connected.
Anyone particular in the racing or running communities who's been an inspiration to Logan?
When Logan was little, my friend Jen sent him a video of NASCAR driver Ryan Reed, who we had never heard of prior to that. He has looked up to him since as a role model. He also met IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball at Friends For Life in 2016 so he has multiple role models that he follows related to racing cars. On running, he met Diathlete Gavin Griffiths while we were on spring break in London and has enjoyed following him on social media and reading his stories.
We are really lucky that Logan's had opportunities through FFL and otherwise to meet amazing role models in sports and life. He really feels like he can do anything and won't be limited when he grows up thanks to these experiences.
Let’s talk about race-truck driver Tony Lafo and the fundraising support…
As described in our Diabetes Connections podcast spot, Tony Lafo (driver and owner of Fueled By Insulin) was a mystery donor to Logan's various JDRF campaign pushes over the years, as I always post them in our town Facebook group once a year when I want to make a goal. We didn't have an email or address for him until this year when for some reason the website had his email listed, so I could send a personal thank you. A few weeks later, I had posted a fundraiser Logan was doing at a local supermarket and Tony reached out to us to discuss the race truck partnership.
We brought it to Jeff (Hitchcock) and Laura (Billetdeaux) of CWD, and next thing you know, the first race took place on April 29. Tony is SUCH a nice guy and his whole crew has been so nice to Logan. We've brought Logan down most Tuesdays to either playing Hot Wheels with at least one of them or sweeping their floors while they work on the truck. Tony doesn't know any other type 1's other than Logan, and he would prefer to help somebody local than send off a check somewhere random. When he isn't racing he's a full-time Fire Service Volunteer. His company Tony Lafo Racing, LLC, helped raise awareness by featuring the CWD logo on the #82 Ford F-150 Pro-Truck, as well as the Hauler and T-shirts and donating 10% of race winnings to Logan's fundraising efforts. That truck retired in 2017.
Your family seems very supportive of so many different D-Community orgs. Can you tell us about those connections?
We have been touched by so many nonprofits over the almost 10 years with type 1. We have a love for JDRF and do the run every year; Logan loves the pen pal program from Beyond Type 1, and I love their ongoing constant articles and communication. I really feel like they have connected the larger diabetes community.
Regarding the CWD Friends for Life conference, I knew about the event for years but didn't sign up until 2015 as we were starting to experience our 7-year itch. I was looking for something different to help rejuvenate us and not free-fall into burnout. CWD does a great job with these events, bringing children and families together in a safe environment where they bond and have fun while learning. As parents, there are a ton of sessions for us on everything you can imagine from learning about new technology to support groups. So we both loved it our first year. Logan even had a bunch of people sing happy dia-versary to him on his 7-year date.
When returning to the event in 2016, Logan was inspired to write a speech to ask other kids to help CWD and bring awareness to the need for fundraising for the event. He loves being around "his people," especially the teenagers and young adults with T1D. He's inspired by them and can't wait to help at a CWD event when he's older like them!
And you're involved with the #WeAreNotWaiting DIY movement too, right?
Yes, the Nightscout Foundation and that do-it-yourself solutions has allowed us to give the school nurse access to view Logan's blood sugars when he's there to help keep him safe. While we have to narrow our financial/fundraising focus to make an impact, we try to support all the organizations that help Logan and other T1 kids wherever we can, whenever we can.
Finally, what else does your amazing kid have planned?
Logan will definitely take his advocacy to the next level, sooner rather than later. I suspect in future years, he will be involved with advocating to ensure everyone has access to basic supplies. We have had a lot of conversations, once he realized that not everyone can afford insulin or a Dexcom. It's an ongoing conversation, and if I felt there was a good opportunity for him to get involved in a couple of years, I'd present it to him and let him decide. We always make him feel comfortable that no matter what happens, he will have access to his Dexcom and insulin, but he's aware of the challenges and concerned for others. He's a very active kid and can't imagine not having his Dexcom to help manage his care.
Thanks so much for sharing your family's story, Samantha! Can't wait to see what Logan makes of his bright future.