NARRAGANSETT- The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and UnitedHealthcare sponsored the 2013 Ocean State Tour de Cure Sunday to benefit diabetes research, education and advocacy. More than 550 riders participated in the Ocean State ride and ADA exceeded the fundraising goal of $240,000, raising more than $250,000.
The ride started at Narragansett High School with routes that took riders through South Kingstown, Westerly and North Kingstown. There were riders of all ages at the event, including people with diabetes (red riders) and supporters of those with diabetes. According to ADA, the tour is a ride, not a race and is held in 44 states nationwide to benefit the ADA.
Red rider, Ryan Noonan and his wife Leanne Noonan were both present at the race in support of finding a cure for diabetes. Although Ryan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of eight, he came to realize the urgency of the issue when he had a blood clot in his shoulder and he had to have surgery. This event caused him and his wife to realize the seriousness of diabetes, and inspired them to follow a healthier lifestyle.
“The endocrinologist came in and said there is no reason you are alive, you should be dead right now. He hadn’t taken care of himself in 10 years. It was an eye opening experience for both of us. And after that he started taking care of himself but he was really upset and depressed and I basically challenged him, I said if you get your A1C (a measure of the average glucose over a three month period) down under ten, I would buy him a bike,” said Leanne.
When Ryan met his challenge, he got his first bike and rode his first tour six months later, at Narragansett High School. After his first tour, Ryan and Leanne began touring throughout New England and to Washington D.C., advocating for ADA and to share Ryan’s personal experience living with diabetes. They are very active with ADA and always make sure to participate in the Ocean State tour.
“I do this so we can get word out there and get more help because there’s no cure. People think insulin is a cure but it’s not, insulin is a drug that helps people with diabetes live but that doesn’t mean it’s a cure,” said Leanne. “Diabetes is more than just taking insulin and exercising and watching what you eat. Diabetes affects every part of our lives and I hope that someday we don’t have to do this because there will be a cure, and we will be having celebrations instead.”
According to ADA, diabetes is a growing problem in Rhode Island and nearly 90,000 adults in this state suffer from the disease, which is an increase of 21,000 over the past decade. Red rider ambassador Phil Slagla was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999. Slagla spoke to the riders before the start of the ride and shared his own personal experience.
“I became involved in 2002 and discovered cycling and lost 85 pounds, and I can no longer ride but I can support the group,” said Slagla. “The main reason we are here is for the red riders and we are here until there is a cure.”
Executive director for ADA of New England, Chris Boynton, was also present at the event and said diabetes is a growing epidemic and encourages others to get involved and help spread the message.
“Our goal is to raise $240,000 and to get more people active and involved. Exercise is a great way to manage diabetes, especially biking,” said Boynton. “Twenty-six million Americans are living with diabetes. We need to take this more seriously because it has a big impact on our families and community.”