He might only be nine years old, but Ottawa resident Alexander Meek already takes more responsibility for his health than most adults.
Diagnosed with Type 1, or juvenile diabetes three years ago, Alexander checks his blood three or four times a day and watches what he eats constantly. Last year, he learned to administer his own shots.
A youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Alexander and his family and friends participated in the Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes at Queen Juliana Park on Sunday.
“We want to help in any way we can,” said his mother, Kelly Meek.
He wasn’t alone.
Tegan O’Reilly, 10, found out two years ago that she had diabetes. She said she wanted to help find a cure.
The 50 members of Team Connor were walking for four-year-old Connor Ouellette, who was diagnosed last September.
“If we can raise enough money, maybe we’ll find a cure,” said his mother, Krista Ouellette.
In the Ottawa region, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario serves more than 900 families affected by Type 1 diabetes each year, said walk organizer Kerry Winnemore. In the recent past, that number was 650, she said.
“There’s an increase in diagnosis,” she said.
The most severe form of diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, is a non-preventable autoimmune disease affecting more than 240,000 Canadians.
That number is increasing by three to five per cent each year, with the greatest rise among children aged five to nine years. Canada has the sixth highest incidence rate of Type 1 diabetes in the world.
More than 2,000 people raised over $167,300 in the walk Sunday.
The walk here was one of 78 walks involving more than 45,000 participants across the country, said JDRF board member Jennifer Kotzeff.
This year, the walks are expected to raise more than $8 million.
“What you’re doing is a part of something bigger,” she said. The money goes towards research within Canada, she said, “and we’re getting close. Watch for something next year.”