WARSAW — With a steady rain falling over the Village at Winona, conditions were nearly perfect for the first-ever Parasol Parade for Cure JM, held Saturday, April 30.
Participants carried bright red umbrellas through the village, then paused to release red balloons over the canal before concluding their walk. This was all to raise awareness of juvenile dermatomyositis, a rare condition that affects about two out of every million children.
Another aspect of the event is that it was not coordinated by adults, but by two teens, Abigail Smith and Katie Yocum. Smith and Yocum are participants in Kosciusko Youth Leadership Academy. One of their required projects is to create an event to benefit a charitable organization. The girls chose Cure JM because it is a subject near and dear to Smith.
Smith was inspired to begin raising awareness of JM when one of the girls she babysits for, Katherine, was diagnosed with it. One of Katherie’s symptoms is that she cannot be in direct sunlight or her skin will break out. This is symbolized by the umbrellas, similar to parasols, often used to shade a person from the sun.
Katherine and her twin sister, Caraline, were present for the event and walked the route with participants. The girls also decorated umbrellas for the event, which were given away in a raffle drawing.
“With the weather, we weren’t really sure how many people would turn out,” Smith said. “But I was really pleased, seeing a sea of red umbrellas and red balloons. It didn’t really seem real to me until Katie’s like, ‘look behind you.'”
Yocum, too, was happy with the turnout. “Really, seeing all that red, it showed me that we’re really making a difference,” she said.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Cure JM Foundation. There is no word yet as to whether another Parasol Parade will take place next year.