Diabetes Delegation

[Post originally published by The Daily Sentinel, available HERE.]

By Charles Ashby

Sixty-three cities, 15 states, 4,291 miles and only two months to do it.

That’s how 20 bicycle riders who live with Type 1 diabetes are spending their summer.

Five-year-old Calvin Trinklein eyes a dish of ice cream as his mother, Jodi Trinklein, checks his blood sugar levels during an ice cream social Sunday evening at Community Hospital in Grand Junction. Calvin has Type 1 diabetes. The social celebrated 20 bicycle riders traveling from coast to coast to raise awareness and funds for diabetes research.

The 20, who hail from all over the globe, arrived in Grand Junction late Sunday, the 46th city, the 12th state they’ve visited since starting their New York-to-San Francisco journey to bring awareness to this chronic, autoimmune disease.

The riders, who call themselves Team Bike Beyond, are all trying to raise funds for Beyond Type 1, a Menlo Park, California-based nonprofit association that seeks to raise awareness of the disease, and help find a cure.

“Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that … sees the beta cells in your pancreas as foreign and the body starts attacking it,” said Robin Levin, fundraising director for the Grand Junction-based Diabetes Counts Network, which is sponsoring the biker’s stop in town.

“It’s the beta cells that produce insulin, and insulin is the key that unlocks your cells to allow glucose to go in to feed yourself, to give you energy. When insulin isn’t there, it becomes a major toxin.”

The riders come from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The money each rider raises not only goes to supporting that individual’s ride, but the group as a whole. To date, the riders have raised about $126,000, but they are hoping to get to $200,000.

“Your support makes my ride possible and supports the work of Beyond Type 1,” said Elliot Gatt, a 33-year-old from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who has raised nearly $2,360.

“This is a cause close to my heart, and your donation will make a real difference in my life and the lives of many others living with T1D.”

After traveling 66 miles from Carbondale, the riders spent Saturday night in Hotchkiss.

By Sunday evening, they traveled up U.S. Highway 50 into Grand Junction, where Community Hospital held an ice cream social for them at the hospital, 2351 G Road.

“This is empowering people who have Type 1 that they can succeed in their lives and that they’re not limited,” Levin said.

By this evening, the bikers will have traveled 110 more miles to Moab, Utah, where the riders will take a much-needed day off before heading to Green River, Utah.

Diabetes Counts Network, a Grand Junction-based organization underwritten by the hospital, and that also partners with Colorado Mesa University for other events, is a support group for the estimated 100 families in the Grand Valley that have one or more children with Type 1 diabetes, which is diagnosed in youth.

“A kid that has Type 1 diabetes, lots of times they feel that they’re different,” Levin said.

“When you’re growing up, you want to meld in with your friends. They feel like they’ve been outcast. They may not want to test their blood sugar in front of people, they may have moments when they are not thinking clearly because their blood sugars are too high.”

Levin’s group is designed to help teach children and their parents how to cope with the disease and learn how to live with it into adulthood.