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Siblings biking cross country for diabetes research
A brother and sister are biking across America to raise money that will be used to help find a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Matt LeBaron, 23, and Amber LeBaron, 20, passed through Yuma recently on their way from San Diego to Daytona Beach, Fla. They stopped momentarily along Interstate 8 to stretch their legs and speak of their journey.
“We are trying to raise awareness and raise donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” Matt said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, T1D can occur at any age. However, it is most often diagnosed in children, adolescents or young adults.
Those with the disease produce little or no insulin, which is needed to move blood sugar into cells where it is stored and later used for energy.
Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of going into the cells, and the body is unable to use this glucose for energy. This leads to the symptoms of type 1 diabetes, which can include headache, hunger, nervousness, rapid heartbeat, shaking, sweating and weakness.
There is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and it can be genetic.
The sibling duo, both sophomores at Brigham Young University, just completed their finals. They are in the same grade because Matt embarked on a Mormon mission before entering college.
Instead of taking it easy this summer, they decided on a whim to get on their bicycles and ride several thousand miles in the course of five weeks.
“Honestly we didn't train at all for it,” Matt said with a laugh. “Our first day we got like 40 miles, the second 50 miles, and yesterday was almost 70.”
Their fourth day in, the same day as their interview with the Yuma Sun, they traveled all the way from Calexico, Calif., to Wellton, a total of about 96 miles.
The siblings were inspired by the suffering of a family member with T1D. She was diagnosed when she was 5 years old, and at one time had to give herself an insulin shot five times a day. The siblings chose to keep her identity anonymous to protect her privacy.
“We watched her go from giving herself shots of insulin each day to now where she has an insulin pump, which is a lot easier for her,” Matt said.
“She has been an inspiration to both of us,” Amber added. “Her courage … we are in awe of it, and she is the inspiration for this bike ride. She has taught us how to turn lemons into lemonade and we think that people with type 1 diabetes deserve to have better research to help make their lives better because they go through so much.”
The siblings are not on their own. Their grandmother follows them in a chase vehicle, keeping a careful eye on her progeny.
“That is our grandma,” Matt said with a grin while pointing to the cab of the truck. “She sacrificed five weeks of her life to help us out.”
The siblings ride as far as they can each day before their bodies become exhausted, or Mother Nature makes conditions out on the road too nasty to ride in. They sleep at budget motels, and eat sparingly because they are on a tight budget.
“We don't have much because we are college students,” Matt said.
However, any donations that are given to the siblings will go toward research, he pointed out emphatically.
“Everything goes straight to JDRF.”
JDRF, formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, is the leading global organization focused on T1D research, and since its founding in 1970, has awarded more than $1.6 billion to diabetes research.
The goal of JDRF research is to improve the lives of all people affected by T1D by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D.
For more information about their journey and to keep up with how the siblings are doing, log onto http://lebaronsonbikes.blogspot.com/.
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.