With four of seven children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D), Carl Wright has a lot riding on his fundraising efforts for the Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley, CA, in October. “I am riding for a cure,” says Carl. “There are so many advancements in managing T1D, including technology, which is incredible, but it’s not a cure. I want a cure. I am raising money and riding for my kids—to cure T1D.”
For more than 20 years, Carl and his wife, Kristina, have managed T1D with their four children. Their oldest son, Kevin, now 23, was diagnosed at just 21 months. After attending JDRF Camps every year beginning at age seven, Kevin now serves as a camp director and champion of other children and families facing T1D. Kevin’s siblings, Megan, now 21, was diagnosed with T1D at age 16; while their brother Michael, now 17, received his diagnosis at 15 months old. Finally, Kara, now 16, was also diagnosed at 21 months old.
The significant impact of T1D on the Wright family prompted their evolution from T1D novice to expert—and today, as mentors to many families experiencing similar diagnoses. “At the time, we wondered why this happened and what we could have done differently,” says Carl. “There were claims it was everything from milk to immunizations—we blamed ourselves for a genetic connection, but no one in our family had experienced any previous diagnosis.”
The Wright family endocrinologist served as an important connection point to several families undergoing a similar experience, and directed them to a current study with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that DNA for potential indications and genetic predisposition of the disease. As technology advanced over time, additional support was found in social media, which opened many doors for further collaboration and connection to other families. Finally, JDRF served as an important resource for the Wrights, especially as they managed T1D with their infant children.
Carl indicates it gets easier over time, almost becoming normal. “It is hard but you will manage. I was the person who fainted at the sight of needles, but you have to do it for your kids,” says Carl. He and Kristina team up to manage T1D for their kids. Kristina takes the kids’ evening blood sugar levels, while Carl tends to the morning routine. “It drives your schedule and sometimes you need to be a pest about it for your kids. You need to ask them questions and double check everything before sending them out driving or to school.” He adds, “It is a rare day when everyone has normal blood sugar levels.”
Kristina offers advice to parents of children with T1D, emphasizing the critical need to ask for help. “You cannot do it by yourself. Do not be afraid to ask for help. You need each other and you need help from others,” she says. “Family members and friends have helped us along the way—you need it.” Carl and Kristina also encourage parents to know when to say no. “Do not be afraid to say no to the many opportunities that come your way as parents, from classroom events to birthday parties and more—you can only do so much and it’s important you don’t push yourself past your limits,” she advises.
With the Death Valley ride on the horizon this fall, Carl has two new challenges before him. The first involves fundraising. He needs to raise $5,500 just to participate in the ride representing the JDRF Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter. Determined, Carl indicates, “I plan to raise much more than that.” Their kids are relentless, he says, at raising money for JDRF—all seven children help out—and this event is no different.
Secondly, a 104-mile ride requires some preparation. Now that spring is here, he hopes to begin training. The ride coincides with the Wright’s anniversary—another reason to celebrate their journey, children and resolve for a cure.