In the Spotlight: Getting Involved

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Looking for a more meaningful New Year's resolution than just hitting the gym or saving money? Consider putting "give back" on your list of goals this year.

Take a cue from Keegan. Last year the 9-year-old with type 1 diabetes took on a new challenge. He participated in the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure, a series of bike rides held throughout 43 states to support their goals: To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.

Doing the Tour gave Keegan a new outlook on coping with type 1 diabetes, and a way that he himself could contribute to finding a cure, according to his father, Todd.

On his ride, Keegan completed a 14-mile course outside of Atlanta, which he says was no easy feat. "It felt long. There were some hills," he says. But he finished the route and raised $3,000 with the help of family, friends and a local bike shop.

"I was very excited. It was close to the best feeling in my life," he says.

Bringing People Together
From bike rides to walkathons and youth group meetings, the type 1 diabetes community has a wide range of outreach activities available for families to come together. The JDRF offers fundraising and volunteer opportunities for both kids and adults, including the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes in locations across the country. Its biannual Children's Congress brings 100 child ambassadors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to meet with lawmakers and raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.

"The Congress gives all of us a chance to recharge and get strength from one another. You get energy and a sense of momentum being able to talk about what the challenges are," says Stefany Shaheen of Durham, N.H., chair of the 2011 Congress.

Empowerment, Not Frustration
In the face of a disease that requires continuous, painstaking and often exhausting management, knowing that they're contributing to diabetes research can give children a positive outlook for advances in treatment.

"We want to participate in these things because we want to help find a cure for this disease, and we want Keegan to take the initiative and responsibility to do that," says Todd. "A local newspaper came and interviewed Keegan, and it was a treat to hear him talk about diabetes and how he wanted to help," he says.

Shaheen says attending the JDRF Congress helped her 11-year-old daughter realize that she can do anything she puts her mind to. "It empowered her by giving her a voice in front of those who can make a difference," she says.

Keegan says that his first Tour is just the beginning and he plans to do it again as soon as he can. "It helps raise money, and it feels good," he says.

For more information on how to get involved, visit www.diabetes.org or www.jdrf.org, or ask your diabetes management team about events in your community.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.

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