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Youth ambassador leaves diabetes in dust

Maddy’s Musketeers are once again fundraising for the American Diabetes Association’s annual Tour de Cure cycling fundraiser to be held April 27 at the Suffolk Executive Airport.

This will also be Youth Ambassador Maddy Sershen’s first 30-mile ride for the event.

Maddy, of Elizabeth City, N.C., was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 5. Her initial symptoms were constant thirst and extreme weight loss. When the doctor finally tested her blood sugar, it was in the mid-500s, which is a dangerously high level that requires emergency care.

“We were very concerned because she was really small, anyway,” her father Rod Sershen said in a phone interview, “so when she started losing weight, she was skin and bones in a matter of just a couple of weeks. We really knew something was not right.”

Maddy and her family’s fundraising team has raised around $5,000 to $6,000 since the team started in 2010, Rod Sershen said. Each year Maddy, 15, raises money with help from her father, her mother, Nicole Sershen, and her sisters Aubrey, 6, and Faith, 18.

Maddy said she was excited to undertake the 30-mile route this year with her dad.

“I really like riding, and being there with my dad is going to be fun too. He’s always supported me,” Maddy Sershen said in a phone interview.

This will be the third year that Maddy has been an ADA Youth Ambassador for Tour. She said that it’s amazing to see so many different people out there on Tour day to either cycle, run or walk — all to help find a cure for diabetes.

Rod Sershen said his family wants to raise more awareness of the disease in addition to fundraising.

“There’s no remission or anything from the disease. It’s always present. You may have a good day or a good couple of days, but usually there’s a reminder that the disease (is still) present,” he said.

Maddy knows this burden all too well but doesn’t let it slow her down.

“Diabetes does not define me, so if I want to go out and do something, I can,” she said. “There may be some moderation to activities and stuff, but I can do as much as a normal person could.”

Registration for cyclists is $25, and is $35 on the day of the event. The fundraising minimum for cyclists is $200. Runners and walkers have a fundraising minimum of $100 and do not pay a registration fee. All participants ages 12 and under have a $50 fundraising minimum. In addition to the 30-mile ride, there will be 12-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile routes for cyclists, and also a 5K run and walk.

The fundraising goal for this upcoming Tour is $525,000. As of Friday, $252,263.82 has been raised, and 75 teams and 653 total participants are registered for the event.

For more information, visit diabetes.org/hrtdc or call 424-6662 ext. 3269. Those interested in volunteering can contact Robin Kantor via email at RKantor@diabetes.org.