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About the only thing that moves faster than a puck on a hockey rink might be Ethan Shlater.
He's a typical 6-year-old boy with incredible amounts of energy; a nice kid with a good disposition.
He's also a diabetic and has to prick his finger six to eight times a day and get shots four times a day. He's on a strict diet, and his mom and his first-grade teachers at Croninger Elementary make sure he sticks to it.
He has Type 1 juvenile diabetes and will be on insulin the rest of his life.
Komets goaltender Kevin St. Pierre always wants to stress "the maybe'' because he thinks anything is possible, including someday maybe curing juvenile diabetes. Plus he knows Ethan. Very little can slow the boy down.
"Maybe that's why God sent him to me, because he knew I would help,'' St. Pierre said. "Things happen for a reason, and you never know why.''
As he has bounced around minor-league hockey during his career, St. Pierre has picked up friends all over the country. It just happened that one of them in Shreveport, La., in 1998 was a diabetic. This friend asked St. Pierre if he would mind being the spokesperson for a barbecue to raise money to fight the
disease. Diabetes has been kind of St. Pierre's pet cause ever since, though he'd gotten away from it for a couple of years recently.
Then he was coaching Zach Shlater, 13, one night at McMillen Ice Arena when Shlater told him his little brother had been diagnosed with diabetes. The family had been at a tournament in Kalamazoo when Ethan started acting lethargically and became deathly ill. After racing him to Parkview Hospital, his parents found out he was a diabetic.
``That hit me because I used to do three or four things a year for juvenile diabetes,'' St. Pierre said. ``When he told me the story, I thought that maybe I needed to get back into it.''
St. Pierre tried to get something organized at the end of last season, but ran out of schedule. This year he's trying to organize an event where he can ask fans to donate money for every save he makes, possibly for a single game, sometime after Christmas. He's working with the Komets' front office to produce T-shirts to sell to get started.
"Ethan is a regular kid, but it's something you always have to be aware of,'' St. Pierre said. "I don't think kids who are 6 or 7 years old should have to give themselves shots every day, check their blood sugar and be careful what they eat. It's not fair for an adult, and especially not fair for kids. I can't believe how long diabetes has been around and we still haven't found a cure for it. It's crazy.''
Everything for the Shlaters seems to work around Ethan for diet and mealtimes.
``You'd think he had it all his life the way he has adapted to this,'' his mother, Claudia, said. ``He just tells everybody, `If I start passing out or I start getting sick, you have to go get my mom because if I don't get my sugar I could die.' He always has a smile on his face, and is a happy-go-lucky kid.''
And St. Pierre would like to see him stay that way.
******Here's why I put this up: During March the Komets are sponsoring "Help Kevin St. Pierre Make the Save for Juvenile Diabetes Research foundation.'' Go to www.komets.com, click on the 31 Kevin St. Pierre button on the right side and you can see a flyer on how to help.