By Edwin A. Velarde, Past-President of the Rotary Club of Westlake Village, California, USA; Member of the Board of Directors for the Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes, and Director of Public Relations for the USA/Canada chapter of the Cycling to Serve Rotary Fellowship.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 422 million adults have diabetes. Over 3.8 million deaths are attributed to diabetes and high blood glucose. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, increased risk of heart disease, blindness among working adults and non-trauma leg amputations. About 95% of people living with diabetes have Type 2 where the body does not efficiently use its naturally-produced insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be preventable and reversed in many cases.
With all the wonderful things Rotary does for humanity like eradicating polio, providing clean water and developing economies, the world needs Rotarians. Rotarians can be examples in leading, preventing and managing diabetes. History has proven Rotarians are able to gather community leaders, health care and public health experts, private organizations, governments, and whatever else it takes to fight diseases and help those suffering. Rotarians have the heart and capabilities to help fight the Global Diabetes Epidemic.
I’m on the Board of the Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes, an organization focused on inspiring Rotarians to take action and supporting clubs and districts with their diabetes-related service projects. I am also the Director of Public Relations of the USA/Canada chapter of the Cycling to Serve Rotary Fellowship, a group that inspire members’ passion for the cycling sport and activity and use it to do good in the world.
I was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at the age of 29. For decades, I struggled to maintain my blood sugar and suffered through the effects of my condition for which there is no known cure. Type-1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that inhibits natural production of insulin, the hormone that is key to metabolizing nutrition to energy.
A few years ago, my good friend Tom gave me a bike and challenged me to take up cycling. Accepting the challenge became a turning point for my health. It was very tough in the beginning, but I persevered and became a student of my condition with diligent research and discipline.
Since then, I’ve increased my cycling activity and developed a nutrition program that has helped me avoid thousands of insulin doses, yet has helped maintain the energy necessary to engage in long-distance cycling.
Now, I dedicate my newfound energy to giving back by raising awareness about the global diabetes epidemic. This year, I am doing that by raising funds for the Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes to continue their work addressing this worldwide public health crisis.. This year is my 3rd Epic Journey to a Rotary International Convention. In 2016, from Busan to Seoul South Korea and in 2017 from Chicago to Atlanta.
For 2018, my Epic Journey Against Diabetes will begin at the Rotary International Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, and end at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I hope to connect and speak with Rotarians, Rotary clubs and their communities along the Epic Journey Against Diabetes route to spread awareness. I also hope to meet other cyclists who will ride with me.
On the final stage of Epic Journey Against Diabetes, the USA/Canada chapter of the Cycling to Serve Rotary Fellowship and other Rotarians and friends will join me to ride from Niagara Falls to the Metro Toronto Convention Center. See interactive maps, route plan and events of the Epic Journey Against Diabetes. Join in me in my journey!