A steady rain fell as people across Niagara came together to walk to cure diabetes.
Kids and adults alike showed up Sunday to Centennial Arena in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the annual Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes for JDRF, a global organization that funds Type 1 diabetes research.
“I think this year will probably be bigger. We have a lot of new families,” said Christi Webster, one of the organizers of this year’s walk.
“We have a lot of new families coming today, which is pretty exciting for them to get involved in and meet other people,” she added.
Webster’s daughter, Maya, 10, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was only two years old. They’ve been doing these walks ever since she was diagnosed, but it’s the first time the walk was held in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“Our only symptom with her was excessive thirst, and thankfully, I knew the signs and symptoms, so we got it very, very early,” she said about her daughter.
Finding a cure and spreading awareness is important to Webster. Along with trying to get rid of the negative stereotypes surrounding Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s an autoimmune disease. There’s nothing anybody did to make it happen or can do to make it not happen. It’s just genes and where your body takes you,” she said.
Maya has been an advocate for JDRF for a few years now.
“One of her biggest fights has been to get coverage for continuous glucose monitors for people that don’t have benefits and can’t afford it,” said Webster.
They had a partial win earlier this year when Maya helped convince the Ontario government to cover the cost of continuous glucose monitoring systems for many patients, she said.
“It is very good to see that this many people, and probably more coming, are willing to show up,” said Maya. “It makes me happy.”
Her fundraising group, Marchers for Maya, surpassed their original goal of raising $500. With 30 donations, they raised $3,222 for JDRF.
The 21 teams across Niagara combined to raise $21,563 and counting.
“Originally, we were shooting for $5,000. And then it was $10,000. And then just $15,000. And this morning, we were over $20,000,” Webster said Sunday.
The money goes to JDRF to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. It also goes to helping people of all ages who have Type 1 diabetes.
The walk had between 25 and 30 volunteers show up to help, said Anne Martin, the development officer for JDRF.
“Since COVID, there’s been a lot of children who were diagnosed in that period of time, who have not had the opportunity because of restrictions to meet another child with Type 1, so this is a great event for them,” said Martin.
While a group of kids ran around, Ann Deuerlein and Stephanie Fast watched their daughters from a distance.
Deuerlein’s daughter, Greta, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in April.
They’re part of “The Go Team” and raised just over $1,800.
Deuerlein and Fast both agreed that it’s nice to see how their kids support each other. While Greta was doing a presentation at school on diabetes, Fast’s daughter Evabeth stood in front of the class with her for support.
Before the walk began, Maya spoke to the crowd before introducing Olympic rower Chris Jarvis from I Challenge Diabetes, to give a pre-walk stretch session.
“Over the past few years, one thing I’ve learned is that nothing can stop the T1D community from rallying together and supporting each other,” Maya told the large crowd.
Before calling up Jarvis, she made sure to tell the crowd that the day before was his birthday.
Jarvis has been living with diabetes for 27 years.
“So many of us know the challenges of living with diabetes every day. It goes pretty deep, and a lot of our friends might not see the little intricacies, all the steps that go into every day,” he said.
He encouraged everyone to try all of the exercises he, along with a few others, will be leading.
But before the stretch, he asked everyone to show him what they were carrying in order to be successful on their walk, in the event of a low or high blood sugar.
Some kids pulled out their insulin pumps, others pulled out little packets of candy. Another kid pulled out a stuffed animal and gave it a tight squeeze.
After a quick warm up and a blood sugar check, everyone made their way over to the starting line to begin the walk.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake has stepped up. Niagara-on-the-Lake has been absolutely amazing,” said Webster.