‘Diabetes Challenge’ underway next month

If you see a familiar face walking around town or working at a business with a teddy bear during the first week of November, don’t laugh.
It’s all for a good cause.
In an effort to educate the public about a disease that affects millions of people around the world, the Canadian Diabetes Association is getting ready to hold its annual “Celebrity Challenge” on Nov. 2-9.
Sarah Ross, diabetes educator and registered nutritionist with the Valley Diabetes Education Centre, said this year’s “challenge” is ready to go with a full slate of local celebrities.
Among this year’s competitors are Jeannette Cawston (Rainy River Future Development Corp.), Cory Delbridge (Canada Safeway), Crystal Godbout (F.F. Chamber of Commerce), Bill Gushulak (Fort Frances General Supply), Jim Hudson (Northland Basics), Melissa Kawulia (The Place), Jim Leonard (Rainy River First Nation), Russ Ling (Tagg’s Source for Sports), Shawn McCaig (Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc.), Cathy Richards (Shaw Cable), Jack Tynan (Fort Frances Times), and Rebecca Webb (CIBC).
“The purpose of the whole thing is to promote awareness in the community so we’ll see [the participants] carrying their bears around, and talk about their experience living like a diabetic,” noted Ross.
Co-organizer George Bartlett noted the celebrities were carefully picked.
“These are not people who stay at home and sit in their rocking chair. These people have done a lot in this town,” he said.
Over the years, Bartlett noted, every mayor and many of the town’s doctors have participated in the challenge, along with bank managers, business owners, and Times’ present and past staffers like Mike Behan, Jim Cumming, Jeremy Loome, John Pierce, and Jennifer Battler.
“This year, I’ve gone for younger people. They must not have any experience with diabetes in their lives so it’s all new to them,” he added.
“In the past, people have said it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. When it’s over, they all say they’re glad they don’t have diabetes,” remarked Bartlett.
Several participants offered their take on the challenge.
“I think it will be tough to do,” said Richards. “But I figured it was good to do the things we should all be doing anyway, like eating right and exercise.
“This kind of forces me,” she added.
“I’m not sure how it’s gonna go. We’ll take it as it comes,” noted Hudson. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“I think it’s going to be quite an experience,” agreed Webb. “By learning about it, you can understand and appreciate what people with diabetes go through every day.
“I’m going to carry my bear with me wherever I go. Thank God, I’m not a sports person,” she added. “I will show my bear proudly.”
The challenge—in which the participants keep track of what they eat and drink for three days, record their blood sugar, give regular insulin “shots” to their bears, and be physically active—will be preceded by two information sessions.
The first is slated Oct. 30 from 6-8 p.m. while the second goes Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. until noon.
Registered nurse Cindy Gauthier, who also works at the Valley Diabetes Education Centre, said the date of the challenge has changed from previous years, when it usually was scheduled in the middle of October.
“We delayed it until November. We decided to make it coincide with Diabetes Month,” she noted.
Ross stressed the importance of the event, which has gone on here for 15 years after Bartlett first got the idea from a conference in New Brunswick.
“Diabetes affects five percent of Canadians. And it affects 15 percent of people in Northwestern Ontario,” she said.
The week will wrap up with a banquet Nov. 9 at La Place Rendez-Vous.
“It’s a chance for the challengers to see who’s won, and for people to talk about they learned what it was like to live with diabetes,” Ross enthused.
“It’s fun, and a good meal.”
Last year’s celebrity challenge winner was Safeway manager Mike Scott.
Dr. Bruce Lidkea will be the evening’s guest speaker. “I was asked, being an expert on eye care, to talk about the link between diabetes and eye health,” he noted.
The banquet, which Bartlett noted is open to everyone, starts at 5:30 p.m. Ticket prices have yet to be confirmed.
Any participants with questions can call Ross or Gauthier at 274-4828.