On the road to beating diabetes

Published 7:25 pm Saturday, March 16, 2013

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories leading up to the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure in Suffolk on April 20.

Ralph Colander moved from volunteer to rider for this year’s American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure, set for April 20 at King’s Fork High School.

“Last year, I didn’t know the Tour existed,” he said. “It was all new to me. But once I found out about it, I took it as an opportunity to learn more about it and to get involved with the American Diabetes Association.”

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Diabetes runs in Colander’s family, and he is pre-diabetic, a condition he is controlling with diet and exercise. He’s getting plenty of exercise training for the Tour.

“I’m on the road to beating it altogether,” he said.

Colander decided to ride when he volunteered last year and noticed a couple things — participation from blacks, who have one of the highest rates of diabetes among the races, and from Suffolk, which has a high rate of diabetes complications compared to other cities in Virginia, was lacking.

“I enjoyed the camaraderie,” he said. “Everybody’s there for a common reason. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of representation from the African-American community or from residents of Suffolk, even though we’re hosting it.”

Colander said people of all races and geographic locations need to get involved so that more people realize Type 2 diabetes is preventable.

“We have more fast-food restaurants coming every day,” he said. “There’s an increase of young people that are overweight. When they get my age, they’re going to have some form of high blood pressure or diabetes. It’s inevitable if they don’t change their eating habits now.”

Colander’s volunteer position last year was driving a supply and gear truck. He was based at one of the rest stations, ready to respond if any bicyclists had a flat tire or some other problem on the course.

“I didn’t get any calls, but I was there,” he said.

He decided to make the jump to riding in order to better represent Suffolk and African-Americans and help people learn more about the disease, he said.

“I don’t think people understand this is a disease that can be prevented or doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” he said.

The Tour de Cure will leave from King’s Fork High School April 20 and take riders on 10-, 30-, 65- or 100-mile courses throughout Suffolk’s back roads. Riders must raise a minimum of $175 to participate.

For more information, visit www.diabetes.org/hamptonroadsvatour.