But first, let me tell you about last week. There I was … just me, a few volunteers and seven teenage boys, totally shredding the gnar in the back bowls of Breckenridge Resort — hucking kickers, plowing through powder, and soaking up every bit of high altitude sunshine possible, for five days straight. No lift lines… no parents to hover over the kids’ shoulders… no stress whatsoever. Just pure, unadulterated joy.
It was one of the most rewarding weeks I’ve ever spent on my full time job as the Executive Director of an international nonprofit called Riding On Insulin. This is, in fact, what I do for a living… my “full time job.” My husband, Sean, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 19, in 2004. Unlike Type 2 Diabetes (or sometimes just “diabetes”), that we hear about in the media, Type 1 (or T1D) is an autoimmune disease with no cure. No diet or exercise regimen can cure it. Essentially, Sean’s pancreas is broken, and can’t deliver to him the life-sustaining hormone called insulin. So Sean — and millions of other kids, teens and adults around the world — have to manually deliver insulin to their bodies with syringes and insulin pumps for the rest of their lives, or until a cure is found.
As a professional snowboarder, Sean started Riding On Insulin after he was diagnosed to show kids everywhere that they’re not alone, and they can do anything they put their mind to… even learn how to ski and ride with T1D. So flash forward to me incorporating Riding On Insulin in 2010 to be a legitimate nonprofit, and flash forward to today, when our team runs over 20 programs (including our core 1-day ski/snowboard camps for kids) in 4 countries around the world, serving over 500 kids, teens and adults annually, and impacting tens of thousands of people in the T1D community.
The business not only has its international headquarters here in Whitefish (where myself and two other employees work), but supports two additional employees… one in Wisconsin and one in Toronto, Canada. It’s a tall order running the show with ease and grace, but I’ll tell you what: The team I have working for this organization is the best of the best — and it’s because I get to work with such great people that we’re feeling such a success today.
And those seven boys, from the beginning of my story? Not only do they live and shred the gnar with T1D, but they were also wearing devices as a part of a clinical trial for a device called the Artificial Pancreas — a system that is set to come out in the next 5 years that will revolutionize the management of this disease and is heralded as the mechanical cure to T1D. Scientists and researchers from around the world are testing this device on sets of kids — and we were fortunate enough to be roped into this on-snow clinical trial.
Shredding in the name of science? Sure. But even more importantly — shredding with others who are just like them… assuring them, and everyone else in the world that no matter what you live with, or deal with in life, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
So I’ve surely missed being in the studio regularly… but now you know where I spend my time and energy when I’m not sharing time on the mat or in the silk. And if you know any families in our community who could use a T1D network, you know where to send them!
Cheers to empowerment — see you on Monday!