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Meatballs and Timberwolves

Diamond Path Elementary School student Spencer Strop can cross meeting a professional basketball player off his to do list. He's actually met three. He even got to cook meatballs with Timberwolves guard Gerald Green.

The precocious fifth grader met the players through the Way-Cool Cooking School for a lesson in diabetic-friendly cooking. Strop was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes last March.

The cooking event was part of the Timberwolves Fastbreak Foundation WolvesCare Month, which focuses on organizations and events that work to serve and support Minnesota youth suffering from terminal and chronic illnesses.

Strop and 40 other diabetic children attended the event. The kids were divided into groups led by different Wolves players. Green led Strop's group while guard Sebastian Telfair and center Michael Doleac led the other groups.

Each group learned how to cook a diabetic friendly course. Strop said his group made meatballs with sweet and sassy sauce.

Throughout the event Strop said Green was nice and helped them make the meat balls and then fry them up, even though Green claimed he was a bad cook. The groups then all joined together and ate.

In addition Strop got some goodies to take home including a cook book, a chef's hat, a t-shirt and Timberwolves game tickets.

"It was fun," Strop said of the class.

Learning about diabetes hasn't always been fun for 10 year-old Strop. Doctors diagnosed Strop with type-1 diabetes 10 months ago.

Type-1 diabetes, also know as juvenile diabetes, occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys certain cells in the pancreas, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation web site. The web site goes on to explain that these cells, called beta cells, are contained, along with other types of cells, within small islands of endocrine cells called the pancreatic islets. Beta cells normally produce insulin, a hormone that helps the body move the glucose contained in food into cells throughout the body, which use it for energy. But when the beta cells are destroyed, no insulin can be produced, and the glucose stays in the blood instead, where it can cause serious damage to all the organ systems of the body.

Strop's parents took him to a local doctor last spring after he had not been feeling well for several days. After running some tests the doctors noticed his blood sugar was off and sent him to Children's Hospital in St. Paul where he spent the next four days.

"I was really scared the whole time," Strop said of his hospital stay. Although he does fondly remember playing video games there.

While at Children's he learned he is insulin dependent which requires him to keep close track of his blood sugar by poking his fingers five or six times a day. To regulate his blood sugar he injects insulin five or six times a day.

"At first it was tricky to get into the groove of things but now I'm used to the shots and finger pokes," Strop said.

Although it seems like a lot for an 10-year-old to handle Strop has a good attitude about it said his mom, Mereyle Strop.

Strop said that's because his family has been really supportive especially his little brother Preston, who he calls his "wing man."

Children's referred Strop and his family to support groups and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation which they have gotten involved with. Though Strop has adjusted to poking himself he and his family still hope that the JDRF and other medical institutions will find a cure someday.