My Diabetes “Trainathon”: A Unique Spin on Fundraising

Posted by harris on Thu, 09/04/2014 - 08:15 in

I’m what you call a “Type 1 Dad.”  My son, Davis has had type 1 diabetes for about three years now.  I try my best to take care of him, but my wife, Teresa, is really the primary caregiver.  Managing Davis’ blood sugar has become very difficult lately, because he’s 13 years old, going through puberty and growing like a weed!

As you can imagine, it’s difficult for two people (parents) to be one pancreas, so the burden of care falls mostly on Teresa.  I do what I can to help Davis, by preparing low-carb meals, counting carbs, and taking him out for father-and-son golfing, skiing and other sporting events; but I can’t be there for him all of the time. I feel bad sometimes and frightened for Davis, but I do what I can.

Harris-Miller-JDRF-Bike-RideSo, I try to help Davis in other ways by focusing on his future and donating money to the JDRF, in hopes that one day they will find a cure. I’ve done a lot of fundraising in the past for many good causes, such as the Pan Mass Challenge, but I now have a very personal connection to type 1 diabetes, so it was an easy decision to focus on fundraising for the JDRF to help improve my son’s life.

Preparing for my First Diabetes Bike Ride Event

Two years ago, I discovered the JDRF Bike Ride in Burlington, VT, but I didn’t think that I was in good enough shape to take on the steep hills. So, I made up my mind that all spring and summer I was going to train and sign up for the ride this year. I figured if Davis can put up with type 1 diabetes every day and night, I can ride my bike for 100 miles. Of course, this is not a short bike ride and Vermont is a very mountainous place, so I knew that it would take a lot of preparation and hard work.

Combining my Training with my Fundraising

I don’t know which is more difficult, fundraising or training, so I decided to “kill two birds with one stone” and put them both together. It felt a little awkward at first, but after submitting a lot of paperwork the local grocery store allowed me to put my bicycle on a training stand in front of the store for two days and raise money for the JDRF. I pedaled for a total of six hours with a couple of signs and a bucket on the handlebars. I call it a “trainathon.”

Of course, I got a lot of comments from shoppers! Most everybody walking by donated. But, I was particularly struck by one 16-year-old who hopped out of their car in the middle of the parking lot - with the engine still running - just to give me the last bit of change out of their pocket. 

Spreading Diabetes Awareness at the Same Time

There was also one elderly gentlemen who came up to me while pedaling and struck up a conversation. The first thing out of his mouth was, “The kids these days are eating all the wrong food.” I knew immediately that he was referring to problems in America with obesity and perhaps type 2 diabetes. I explained to him that there are two very different types of diabetes and that I was raising money for type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. I told him that they don't really know why children get type 1 diabetes, but when it does happen, the pancreas stops producing insulin and they need to deliver it themselves to survive.

I tried to explain to him that it can be very confusing, because type 2 diabetes can also occur in young children. Both type 1 and type 2 are all about insulin and the pancreas; but in one case some unknown cause has stopped the pancreas from working and, in the other case, lifestyle has rendered the body resistant to the insulin that the pancreas produces.

I empathized with him and also told him that I didn't even know what a pancreas was three years ago!  I must admit I was a little surprised when, at the end of our discussion, he pulled out a few dollars and put it in the bucket. His anger subsided and he actually seemed happy!

Check back again soon to get an inside look into Harris’ exciting experiences during the 100-mile bike ride.

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