People always ask me why I wear the number 18 on my Vancouver Giants jersey. No, it’s not my birthday. And no, it’s not the number worn by my favourite hockey player. It means a lot more than that.
On January 18, 2002 I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I was six, almost seven, and it was my first year playing hockey. I ended up having to miss a few months of the season because I had to learn how to manage the condition and adjust to regularly checking my blood sugar and getting daily shots of insulin.
I realized pretty quickly that having diabetes didn’t have to slow me down. I just had to work a little harder and control my lifestyle a little more than the average person.
The summer after my diagnosis, my doctor suggested I go to the Canadian Diabetes Association’s Camp Kakhamela in Gibson’s, B.C. It really helped me learn how to live with diabetes, including how to give myself insulin shots.
But, camp wasn’t all about diabetes, all the time – it was nice to be around other kids who were dealing with the same issues I was. It got my mind off all the doctor’s visits and diabetes management training I was facing back home. It was a great week away; playing sports, doing arts and crafts and just being a kid again.
If I had it my way, every kid with diabetes would be able to go to a camp like Camp Kakhamela. If they got the opportunity, I’m pretty sure it would change their life like it did mine.
And, that’s where TELUS comes in.
This past spring, I heard about a contest by TELUS, a sponsor of the Vancouver Giants, asking Canadians to share photos and testimonials on givewherewelive.ca about how they give back to their community. Ten winners would be chosen to receive a $10,000 donation to their favourite charity.
The campaign really caught my eye. As a Vancouver Giant, I am fortunate to be in the spotlight and people know who I am. Just being a role model, regardless of my diabetes, is important to me and important to my team.
And, with the diabetes, I feel like it’s something I have to do. Everyone has done so much for me in the 12 years since I was diagnosed that I just want to give back and make a difference in other people’s lives like was done for me.
So, I posted a photo and hoped for the best. In June, I found out I had been chosen as one of the winners. And, I knew right away where I wanted the money to go – Camp Kakhamela.
Last night, at a Giants intra-squad game, I was able to present the $10,000 cheque to Camp Kakhamela and sign some autographs for a few excited kids who attend the camp.
It means the world to me to have made the TELUS donation to my childhood camp happen. I’ve always wanted to be involved in raising money for things that are close to my heart – obviously diabetes and diabetes research stand out – but for me this was a little bigger since Camp Kakhamela was my first ever experience going away, and it’s where I gained the confidence to do my first insulin shot.
I hope the money will help kids just like me realize that diabetes isn’t something that has to hold you back. Once you learn how to live with it you can literally do anything you want. Camp taught me to find the positive amongst all the negative.
Thanks to TELUS for helping me give back to a cause that matters to me. The Give Where We Live campaign gave people a voice to show other Canadians what they are doing. It’s inspiring to see what other people do. It makes you want to be a better person and do more in your own community.