By Laura McAlister
Jim Cunningham never knew how debilitating diabetes could be until about two years ago. That’s when the 53-year-old was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Though more commonly known as juvenile diabetes because it occurs most often in children, the disease can be diagnosed in adults.
For Cunningham, an accountant with Warren, Averett, Kimbrough & Marino (WAKM), it would mean having to readjust his routine – planning meals, constantly monitoring his blood sugar levels and of course insulin shots. He doesn’t complain, though.
“I have to be honest, I’m 53 and am pretty routine anyway,” he said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with this as a child. They have very much less routine, and it’s got to be hard on the parents.
“It’s not that big of a deal for me to eat at the same time every day, but it would be for an adolescent.”
It’s the many children with diabetes that prompted Cunningham and WAKM to form a team for an upcoming cycling event that raises funds for diabetes research. Tour de Cure is a national cycling ride benefiting the American Diabetes Association.
Events are held in cities across the nation, and Birmingham’s will be May 22.
The ride, not race, organizers say, starts at the Birmingham Race Course where participants can pick up their map for either the 50K, roughly 33 miles, or the 100K, about 62 miles. There are also shorter, family routes available.
The goal of the Birmingham event is to raise $84,000 for the American Diabetes Association while also raising awareness about a disease that is affecting more and more Americans, said Annah Morgan, event manager.
“Diabetes is really growing at epic proportions,” she said. “It’s growing faster than breast cancer and AIDS. We have a lot of riders with diabetes, and they tell you that cycling really helps them control their blood glucose levels.”
Cunningham is the only member of the WAKM team, dubbed the Street Peddlers, with diabetes, but other members have also been impacted by the disease.
“I have a nephew who has been in like two (diabetic) comas,” said Shelia Veciglio, who is riding with the Street Peddlers. “I’ve watched him go through that, and it just made me really want to support this. It’s really amazing how many people there are with diabetes.”
In addition to raising money and awareness for diabetes, Morgan said she also hopes the event encourages people to get up and get moving, which in the end could prevent the onslaught of type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease and also the fastest growing.
Exercise is also a good way for those with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels, Morgan said.
Exercise was one of the reasons Brett Fairfax with WAKM joined the Street Peddlers. He’s participated in several marathons, but this will be his first cycling event.
“I just really think it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I enjoy exercising, and I think it’s a good cause.”
Fairfax said he’s planning on riding in the 50K. Cunningham, who’s been training for the event, said he’s going to do the 100K.
Although it makes his wife, Karen, somewhat nervous, she supports him. She won’t be riding alongside him, but she will be participating.
“Of course I’m going to ride,” she said. “I’m just not doing the 100K. I’m doing the 33 miles.
“This has become a cause that is just really close to our hearts now. Him having diabetes really turned our world upside down, and now we can do something to help the rest of the people who struggle with it.”
So far, about 150 have signed up for the Birmingham Tour de Cure, and Morgan said there’s still time to join. Registration is open through the day of the event.