By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — Rylee Stark is a total fashionista, her wardrobe packed with pink leggings, sparkly dresses and headbands topped with feathers.
The 8-year-old’s favorite must-have fashion accessory does a lot more than make a statement on the playground.
It also discreetly holds her insulin pump.
Her mother, Corrie Stark, came up with the clothing design out of sheer frustration. She’s recently turned the idea into a fledgling online business called Rylee’s Pocket.
Rylee, a third-grader at Jefferson Elementary in Everett, is a type 1 diabetic. Last year she started using a pump, rather than syringes, to deliver insulin.
The pump helps keep Rylee’s blood sugars even but she and her family quickly became frustrated dealing with the medical device attached to her body.
The pump is about the size and shape of a pager, with a small tube that runs directly to an infusion site, usually on a person’s abdomen. Rylee’s pump is bubblegum pink.
Insulin pumps aren’t new technology, but they are becoming more widely used, especially among type 1 diabetics.
Rylee is an active girl and the pump kept falling out of her pocket and getting in the way when she played.
Then there was the added concern of the pump’s thin tube getting caught on something.
Her mom came up with a way to securely hold the pump: a special zippered pocket attached to the outside of a shirt. The design includes a small slit, so Rylee can thread the thin tube attached to the pump to the infusion site on her tummy.
The zippered pocket keeps the pump securely in place as Rylee twirls and skips through her days. Rylee said she feels comfortable dressing herself. She also likes the colorful squares of fabric her mom chose for the shirts.
“(My friends) loved them,” she said. “They wanted to buy one right away.”
Corrie Stark is trying out a variety of designs, including fabric choices and tank tops for boys. The tanks retail for $20 each.
They’re about to expand the offerings to adults. Rylee’s grandma, Sandy Welborn, wears the shirts now too. She also is a type 1 diabetic. Friday she modeled a trim black tank top with a matching black pocket for her pump.
The pockets are placed mainly on tank tops, which can be worn as a shirt or as an undergarment. Rylee usually wears hers under dresses or other shirts or to bed with pajama bottoms.
The business is just getting off the ground. Corrie Stark is working with her niece, Sarah Syvertsen, of Seattle. They’ve hired a seamstress to make the shirts.
Syvertsen, 22, used her social networking skills to bring media attention to the business, and the company already is getting more orders.
They’ve also gotten the attention of the American Diabetes Association, which expressed interest in working with the business.
“Not everyone with diabetes has a pump, but more and more people with type 1 diabetes are wearing them and this is a great way to keep it intact and concealed,” said Sarah Popelka, a fundraiser with the American Diabetes Association.
Right now, Rylee’s Pocket is working to donate 60 shirts to a summer camp for local children with diabetes.
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find Rylee’s Pocket at www.ryleespocket.com.