Brittney Burns — Staff Writer

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, along with support from Jackson County DSS, Sylva Police Department, Refuge Church, and Fairview Elementary teacher Sherry Maney are sponsoring a benefit to help raise the money needed to buy a diabetic alert dog for 6-year-old Kaleigh Leamon.  Kaleigh’s mother Laura has been working to raise the money on her own, and it was from observing her efforts, and becoming aware of Kaleigh’s needs, that the idea to have a benefit developed.

Kaleigh was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 22 months old. She is a very active child who loves to play and be outside and absolutely loves school. She loves to read, go for walks and is very friendly and has no problem making new friends. Kaleigh has a huge heart and loves to help others.

Kaleigh is in need of a diabetic alert dog to help manage her disease.  The D.A.D (diabetic alert dog) is named Maysea. She will be able to smell the rise or drop in Kaleigh’s blood sugar 20 to 30 minutes before her Continuous Glucose Monitoring device or anyone else could catch it. Because of her age, Kaleigh still can’t really understand how she is feeling so she doesn’t say anything when her blood sugar drops low or goes high. At night, Kaleigh’s parents check her every two hours to make sure she is okay. Her blood sugar could drop at anytime while she is sleeping and they would not know. Maysea will be trained to alert someone that something is wrong.

Maysea will be trained to fetch Kaleigh’s meter, juice, or other life saving items. She will be with Kaleigh everywhere she goes, including school.

“Having a D.A.D actually works better than a CGM or testing because where we can’t monitor her 24/7 Maysea will be able to do that by smelling Kaleigh’s body chemicals,” said Laura Leamon. “We do check Kaleigh by pricking her finger at least 7 to 10 times a day depending on how her bloods sugars are. Having a D.A.D has proven to lower a diabetic’s A1C levels which is the ultimate goal in a diabetic’s life.”

The total cost of Maysea is $16,500, and the community is working to raise $18,000 to cover the cost of food and vet visits and anything Maysea may need.

Kaleigh’s dad works for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and the agency is supporting a benefit to help one of their own. On the day of the benefit, there will be several activities for the community. There will have a dunking booth for a special “Dunk A Deputy,” were several officers have volunteered to be in the dunking booth.

There will be a hot dog dinner, inflatables, bouncy houses, face painting, a cake walk and silent auction.  For entertainment, there will be Karaoke with Chris Monteith of Bryson City. He will provide Karaoke for anyone who wants to get on stage to sing from 12 to 1 p.m.  Tribe Called Praise from Whittier will be performing from 1:30 till 2:30.  The Colby Deitz Band will perform from 3 to 4:30.  Everyone is encouraged to bring their own chair. The benefit starts at 11 a.m.

“Honestly, we are in awe of how the community has stepped in to help us,” said Laura. “I never thought or imagined that this would just take off the way it has. I know I prayed about this for a year before we decided to go ahead and do it and everyone just got so involved and I just feel so blessed to live in our little community where people truly care and want to help. There are good people here who love and want to help. I have sat and thought about what I can do or say to show our appreciation but there is nothing I can say or do to even compare to how we feel about how the community has stepped in to help. I just know that I hope to be as big of a blessing in someone’s life one day the way the community has blessed us. I know God has got this and he is making a way for this to happen. I give him all he glory for without him none of this would be possible.”

A bank account has been opened at United Community Bank (UCB) in the name of ‘Team Kaleigh.” Donations can be made at UCB or at the reception desk at Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

“To everyone involved in this event and helping us raise the money for Maysea, those who have spent many hours outside of work preparing this, for those who have donated, and volunteered, my family and I want to thank each and everyone of you,” said Laura. “You are a blessing to our family and especially to Kaleigh. It is so powerful to see how much love each of you have and we have a community who loves like Jesus does. He is alive in our community.”

The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 17, beginning at 11 a.m. at the Bridge Park in Sylva.