On June 13, 2018, Edwin Velarde will embark on a 1,200-kilometer bicycle ride through the Great Lakes Region of the United States and Canada to raise awareness of diabetes, a condition he is personally battling for nearly three decades.
The 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.
The route will take Edwin along four of the Great Lakes — Michigan, Erie, Huron and Ontario — through the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan and into Canada at the St Clair River and the Town of Sarnia, Ontario. From there, Edwin will ride farther into the Canadian Province of Ontario through the towns of London, Port Dover, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, before finally arriving at the Metro Toronto Convention Center where Rotary’s International Convention will be held from June 23-27, 2018.
The ride is Edwin’s latest effort to draw attention to diabetes, a human body disorder that inhibits the natural production or ability to use insulin. Diabetes have killed nearly four million people around the world.
Edwin was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes at the age of 29. For decades he struggled to maintain his blood sugar and suffered through the effects of his 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, his good friend Tom gave him a bike and challenged him to take up cycling.
Accepting the challenge became a turning point for his health.
It was very tough in the beginning, but he persevered and became a student of his condition with diligent research and discipline.
Since then Edwin has increased his cycling activity and developed a nutrition program that has helped reduce his basal insulin by 80 percent and almost eliminated the need for bolus insulin. Edwin has avoided thousands of insulin doses yet has maintained the energy necessary to engage in long-distance cycling.
Now, Edwin dedicates his newfound energy to giving back by raising awareness of the global diabetes epidemic.
Over 3.8 million deaths are attributed to diabetes and high blood glucose. That is nearly the number of people living in Manhattan Island and Brooklyn, New York, combined or the entire population of Los Angeles, California. Diabetes is the No. 1 reason for kidney failure and increased risk of heart disease. It is the leading cause of blindness among working adults and non-trauma leg amputations. About 95 percent of people living with diabetes have Type-2 where the body does not use its naturally produced insulin efficiently. Type-2 diabetes can be preventable and reversed in many cases.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 422 million adults have diabetes. In the United States, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports 30.3 million people (9.4 percent of the U.S. population) have diabetes; 7.2 million of those cases are undiagnosed. In Canada, 3.4 million (9.3 percent) people are living with the disease. Both the United States and Canada foresee a nearly 45 percent increase in diabetes cases by 2025.
It is clear diabetes is a global epidemic and a major public health concern in North America.
Nearly 60 percent of people with diabetes, both new and existing cases, are age 45 and older. These numbers fall in line with the age group of Rotarians around the world.
“With all the wonderful things like eradicating polio, providing clean water and developing economies that Rotary does for humanity, the world needs Rotarians. To continue serving the world, Rotarians must stay healthy,” Edwin said. “Rotarians can be examples and lead in preventing and managing diabetes. History has proven Rotarians are able to gather community leaders, health care and public health expertise, private organizations, governments, funding and whatever else it takes to fight what is hurting the people of the world. Rotarians have the heart and capabilities to help fight the diabetes epidemic.” Edwin passionately said.
A bicycle ride of this magnitude is mentally and physically challenging for any person, let alone for someone living with type-1 diabetes. Preparation for the Epic Journey Against Diabetes requires training regimen that will test Edwin physically and challenge his personal blood glucose management and nutrition program.
“I am dedicating my effort to all who are living with diabetes and provide awareness about our condition. I understand the challenges of diabetes. Much like this bike ride, living with diabetes can be mentally daunting, it is a tough and constant battle, and feels like you are all alone in the middle of nowhere fighting it out.” Edwin said.
At the start of the Epic Journey Against Diabetes, Rotarians & friends from Chicagoland, Rotary International staff, Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes, Rotary Fellowship of Cycling to Serve USA/CA will ride with Edwin to send him off. During that time, they will visit the Greater Humboldt Park Diabetes Empowerment Center, a community health organization that addresses the staggering 21 and 14 percent rates of diabetes in the Puerto Rican and African-American populations, respectively, of that community.
On the Final Stage of Epic Journey Against Diabetes, Rotary Fellowship of Cycling to Serve USA/CA and other Rotarians and Friends will join Edwin to ride from Niagara Falls to the Metro Toronto Convention Center.
Edwin hopes to connect and speak with Rotarians, Rotary Clubs and their circles along the Epic Journey Against Diabetes route to spread awareness about the diabetes epidemic. He also hopes to meet other cyclists who will ride with him during parts of this journey.
Edwin serves as a director for Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes, a worldwide organization focused on spreading the word about the global public health issue and to inspire Rotarians to address the diabetes epidemic. He is also a director of Rotary’s Fellowship of Cycling to Serve – USA/Canada, an organization that uses members passion for the cycling sport and activity to do good in the world.