Name: Michelle Simonin
Hometown: Calgary, AB
“One small step: Team Diabetes’ inaugural participant”
By: Michael Jacoby
Calgary’s Michelle Simonin has the distinction of being the very first Team Diabetes participant. Michelle helped break ground on the newly-established fundraising program in 2000, after coming across a brochure in a local running store. “At that point, I sent in my application and signed up for Team Diabetes Dublin in October,” she says. Along with 22 teammates from across Canada, Michelle fundraised and set her sights on competing in the Emerald Isle as part of this inaugural international tour group.
Michelle was inspired to sign up for her first ever marathon upon receiving the news that her five year old nephew, Jason, had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Her mission was personal, as her family was now a part of the more than 10 million people in Canada living with diabetes or prediabetes.
Throughout her tenure with Team Diabetes Michelle’s motivation has remained focused on Jason. Then, when her father passed away in 2013 after living for many years with type 2 diabetes, the cause became even more personal.
Michelle has been struck by the impact diabetes has in the daily lives of her family members. In the case of her nephew, it was the regular blood glucose testing and insulin injections that touched her. Diabetes is a significant issue in Canada, one that impacts millions of people. For an endurance athlete like Michelle – who in addition to completing over a dozen marathons has also completed several Ironman triathlons – the effect diabetes has on a person’s body was overwhelming. “Searching and running for that cure is even more important so that Jason does not have to give himself a needle four times a day,” she says.
She is steadfast on leading the charge against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while researchers work to find a cure. Since 2000, people living with diabetes have grown up with advancements in Islet transplant research, insulin pump therapy, and other diabetes-related tools, techniques, and strategies that have made their lives more manageable. Funding from the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), including money raised by Team Diabetes, helps to support that research. “Knowing that I have a small part in this is very rewarding,” Michelle says.
In 2010, when Jason was 15, he hiked alongside his aunt and Team Diabetes in the Grand Canyon and next year the program will be returning to Dublin, where Michelle will once again be running in the marathon with many of the same goals and aspirations from the time she first started. “Being the first person in Canada to sign up, and still with the program, says a lot for Team Diabetes Canada,” she says.
For the CDA, participants like Michelle are making a huge difference. In 2004, based on her incredible commitment to Team Diabetes, Michelle received the Canadian Diabetes Association Volunteer of the year Award.
You can make a difference by joining Team Diabetes – to learn more or register for an event in your area visit teamdiabetes.ca.