This year marks the 25th anniversary of two American Diabetes Association® signature fundraising events—Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes® and Tour de Cure®.
Every dollar raised at these events supports people living with diabetes and funds our life-changing research and programs.
The “25 Legends” blog series highlights personal stories from some of the Association’s most dedicated walkers and riders who are affected by the disease.
One day each year, people affected by diabetes are able to take charge of the disease and force it to have a little fun. This day is the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure.
Yes, diabetes is a chronic disease that impacts tens of millions of Americans—a disease that forces people to monitor their health 24 hours a day to prevent life-threatening complications. People with diabetes have no choice but to submit to daily blood glucose checks and medication their entire lives.
But on this one day, we can jump on a bike, grab a sign or slip on a diabetes t-shirt—and show the world how we fight. By exercising, celebrating and supporting those with diabetes, while raising money and awareness, we work toward the day we can ride for no reason at all.
I started riding in Tour de Cure–Southern Maine in the 1990s. I was young, single and just looking for something to do over the weekend when I saw the event brochure for the first time. So I participated, and during my initial ride, I got a flat tire and spent a lot of time repairing it and complaining. But soon after, I realized what a great experience it was and I joined the Tour de Cure planning committee, specializing in rider support.
A few months later, this event took on new meaning when my five-year-old son, Andrew, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The disease changed everything for my family. Daily tasks like meal planning, going to school and playing sports posed challenges. I remember coaching soccer, T-ball and Little League baseball just so I could be at Andrew’s side and ensure his safety.
Needless to say, my Tour de Cure team, Andrew’s Army, was born. I rallied up family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, and Andrew’s classmates along with soccer and baseball teammates to show support. Our team consisted of more than 40 members, and our annual fundraising goals swelled to over $10,000.
We weren’t just a team—we were a force. We tie-dyed our own shirts, organized groups of volunteers and made noise wherever and whenever we could. And when I became a co-chairman of the Tour de Cure Planning Committee, I convinced a few friends to join it as well.
Fast-forward to today: Andrew is a 20-year-old college student, balancing soccer, college life and a future in physical therapy—and diabetes. He is no longer the young boy I once held down for insulin shots. I now trust him to manage his diabetes, and I understand he must do it on his own.
The photograph of Andrew’s Army is a reminder of what we were able to do as a community. I’m still on the planning committee, and I still ride—as do Andrew, my sister and her family. My wife runs a rest stop along the routes and my son Brendan takes photographs and shoots videos. Together, we help organize the American Diabetes Association’s Champions Dinner—for fellow riders who raise $1,000 or more each season. Although Andrew’s Army is no longer the biggest or loudest team, each year we raise enough money so that Andrew and I can be Champions.
I’ll always ride. Maybe someday I’ll be the last member of Andrew’s Army. I’ve ridden in Tour de Cure as long as I have because I truly enjoy it. It gives me the feeling of accomplishment in fighting this disease and overcoming the struggles it has put us through. That is what I can do as a dad.
Together, we CAN Stop Diabetes®.
The Association is so grateful for our 25 Legends! Their tireless efforts as walkers and riders are a tremendous support and inspiration to people with diabetes.