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Kids Learn About Diabetes

By David Mendosa

Last Update: August 15, 1997

If kids can communicate better with kids than adults can, Brendan Hannemann's Web site should be a big help for lots of kids with diabetes.

It's not written in ‘doctorese.’

It's not just because Brendan is only 16, although that certainly helps. It's also because all the material on the site has been put in language they can readily understand.

"Kids Learn About Diabetes" is at While an endocrinologist reviewed the site, it's not written in what it calls "doctorese."

A professional-looking site, it is all the more remarkable because Brendan taught himself how to write in the HTML programming language of the Web. "I learned it a long time ago," he says.

How long ago? "It is almost a year now," he replies. "I was looking around the Net and saw all these pages and wondering how to do it. I was using Netscape and just studied the source code of the pages."

Learning about diabetes came even more naturally. Brendan doesn't have diabetes, but the two other children in the Hannemann family do. Chris, his 13-year-old brother, and Vicky, his 9-year-old sister, both have diabetes and helped him build the site.

In fact, many people helped him. That was one of the project's goals. Making the Web site was what Brendan did for his Eagle Scout service project.

"To become an Eagle Scout you have to have a service project showing leadership," Brendan explains. Learning leadership skills turned out to be harder than coding or writing about diabetes.

"It was kind of hard, because there was a wide range of kids my age and younger," he says. "And adults too." It took about 120 hours of everybody's time, including 40 or 50 hours of his own work.

A typical Eagle Scout project is often work in the woods, like building or maintaining a trail. No one else in Brendan's Scout troop ever did a Web site before as a service project, he says. So, how did it happen that Brendan took the high-tech route?

"If my brother and sister didn't have diabetes, I wouldn't have thought of it," he says. "My dad and I were brainstorming together about whether to do a Web site or a normal service project, and I brought up diabetes."

His project worked in more ways than one. Partly because of it he qualified to become an Eagle Scout after going before a board of review on August 7. The project also works as a diabetic reference for kids.

The feedback Brendan received is what surprised him the most. "When I put it up I got a whole bunch of hits the first day, and I was really happy."

He shares some of the comments he has received.

"I just discovered your page and had to let you know how impressed I was," writes Leah Wooten from Louisiana. "I'm the mother of a 15-year-old boy who was diagnosed when he was six. I wish there had been a Web site like yours as he was learning about diabetes. I'm very active in the Louisiana chapter of JDF and will be bringing info about this site to our support group."

Lonnie Foley writes that "your Web site is certainly a well thought out and researched site. I will certainly recommend this site to my doctor as a great learning site for diabetics, new, old, type 1 or 2. Even as an adult with type 2 there are a few things I learned from your site."

A member of Brendan's Scout troop, Tony Waisanen, writes that Brendan "did a very good job. I particularly liked the info-quiz-info-quiz pattern."

Brendan organized the site as a learning tutorial where after going through a section of the material you get asked some simple questions. In fact, adding different sounds to right and wrong answers are the next step he's planning for the site.

So even though building the site served his immediate purpose, Brendan does plan to maintain it and keep it up-to-date. "There will be enough new things—breakthroughs and stuff like that—so I can update it and keep people interested," he says. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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