The Team Type 1 Foundation was established with the mission to “instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes.” The foundation believes that with appropriate diet, exercise, treatment and technology, anyone with diabetes can achieve their dreams. Each year the Team Type 1 Foundation Provides educational scholarships for young athletes with Type 1 diabetes, and having those athletes serve as spokespersons to further achieve the foundations goals. The Global Ambassador program aims to foster young leaders in diabetes, not only providing financial scholarships, but also training on becoming visible advocates for the diabetes community and role models for the next generation of young type 1 athletes. 58 applicants received funding in the 2015-2016 school year, with 5 receiving $5,000, 5 receiving $2,500, and 51 receiving $1,000 – for a total of $85,500 in funding. The current awardees span 13 different sports – including football, soccer, swimming and more.
With the help of Dr. Biljana Southerland and others I was able to connect with Peninah Benjamin. Peninah is one of 58 recipients of the 2015-2016 school year athletic scholarship from Team Type 1. Over a month of emails I learned a lot about Peninah and about her diabetes story. In that month I also learned that Peninah is a very determined and hard working individual that found time to email me and take part in the interview while studying and taking finals at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire!! Below is a truly inspirational interview that shows anything is possible with diabetes, Peninah is an inspiration and demonstrates what the Team Type 1 Foundation is all about!!
To Learn more about The Team Type 1 Foundation please visit http://teamtype1.org/
Also look for The Team Type 1 Foundation on Twitter (@TT1foundation) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/TeamType1Page//)
I was diagnosed with diabetes at the end of second grade, when I was seven years old. When I was diagnosed, I did not know what diabetes was or what it meant. All I knew is what I heard the doctors say, more finger pricks and an insulin shot every day. I was very active in second grade and did soccer, dance, and lots of other sports. Luckily, I was surrounded by friends and family who knew me as me and did not look at me any differently. To me, diabetes never stood in the way of doing anything, it was just another thing I had to take care of.
Being in high school and college with diabetes can be very difficult, how do you balance everything from studying for finals, road trips, and social events?
By the time I got to high school, I kind of forgot what it was like to not have diabetes. I could not remember a day not waking up, checking my blood sugar, counting carbs, and taking insulin. It is just another part of me, but not something that defines me. Just like I have to back my bag for when we travel for sailing regattas, or pack my clothes, I never think twice about also having to pack my bag for diabetes supplies for the weekend.
The only time that really stood out to me was when I returned this past January for our second quarter after winter break. Two days before classes started, I got a stomach bug and was constantly low, but also had ketones. I had to use the glucagon shot for the first time ever, and all this was in my dorm room with my two roommates. They were always there for me, but it was scary at first and not having my parents, but instead having to do this all on my own.
How did you learn about the Team Type 1 Scholarship?
When I was first diagnosed, my family and I went to the Children with Diabetes (CWD) Conference in Orlando, Florida where I first met Phil Southerland. There I learned about Team Type 1, but I was only eight years old, so was not aware of the Team Type 1 Scholarship. Once junior year came around in high school I was looking online for diabetes scholarships and found the Team Type 1 Foundation again. I was always interested in Team Type 1 because it focused on athletes living a healthy lifestyle, and I like their mission.
I am also involved with an organization called AYUDA (American Youth Understanding Diabetes Abroad) and Nick Cuttris, the founder of AYUDA, also told me about the scholarship with Team Type 1.
How have your teammates helped you when it comes to competing with diabetes?
From running cross country and track and sailing in high school and now sailing in college, my teammates have always been there for me. They are always interested in learning more about diabetes, which makes me feel more comfortable. This past spring break we were on our training trip in Charleston, and one night I gave a presentation about Team Type 1. Since then, my teammates have been so much more interested in diabetes, always asking question and interested in my health. They love checking in on my blood sugar, watching me give insulin on my pump, and looking at the trends on my CGM.
What has the Team Type 1 Foundation taught you about life with diabetes?
I have learned the importance of empowerment and mentorship. Although I have been lucky to grow up with family, friends, and doctors who always believed in me, that is not always the case. The power of role models and mentors go a long way because they show what is possible, whether other people believe it or not. The foundation has taught the significance of fighting and standing up for what you believe in.
What is your dream? What is your diabetes dream?
Ultimately, I dream for a day that we find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. However, diabetes has given me so much over the past eleven years, and I am a different person because of it. I have met so many people and have done so many things because of diabetes, that I would not take away.
If you could tell someone that was diagnosed with diabetes at the same age as you what would you say to that person?
When I was diagnosed in second grade, my teacher told the class that diabetes was like wearing glasses. Although now I realize that diabetes is much more serious than wearing glasses, the point was that diabetes does not stop you from doing anything. Diabetes has never held me back or stopped me from doing anything with friends, sports, academics, or traveling. I’ve never thought that I could not do something because of diabetes. Whether it’s playing a sport, singing, acting, theater, or whatever it may be, diabetes is just there, and you can control it. Don’t change and don’t let it change you.
Who is your diabetes role model?
The summer after I was diagnosed, my family and I went to Children with Diabetes where I met many people living healthy and amazing lives with diabetes. As a newly diagnosed eight-year-old, I met Olympic Ultra marathoner Missy Foy. Missy told our young group that when she was first diagnosed, she was told she might not be able to run competitively anymore. I couldn’t believe anyone could be limited by this condition. Needless to say, Missy proved them wrong, and she challenged us to reach for the stars.
I also met Nicole Johnson, former Miss America. Nicole is a highly visible role model and advocate for people living with T1D. Nicole has been a mentor and role model and shared her passions about making a difference. I admire Nicole and set out to make a difference in my own way.