13-year-old Drew Salaki first joined JDRF Ride as a volunteer in Saratoga Springs, NY, in 2022. The event inspired him to participate the following year as a rider. “I saw that it was an amazing environment with people just like me,” he said.
Drew went all-in on JDRF Ride this year in Burlington, VT, riding the “metric century” distance of 63 miles! “I felt so accomplished and happy when I finished,” he said.
But at JDRF Ride, you’re never alone, and Drew is grateful for the friendship of his fellow Riders. One person in particular made an impact on him: “I want to give a special shoutout to Tom Clawson, who rode with me most of the way and never gave up on me.”
Taking a Team Approach
Drew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) during the COVID-19 pandemic. He admits to being nervous at first because of all the unknowns. That apprehension quickly faded, thanks to his incredibly supportive family. “We got through it as a team,” his mom Cara said. “He was never alone in his diagnosis.”
Today, Drew is managing his T1D like a champ. “I feel a lot safer and secure because I know what I’m doing,” he said.
Betting on Research
Shortly after Drew’s diagnosis, he was enrolled in the PROTECT clinical trial, which investigated whether the disease-modifying therapy Tzield slowed the loss of beta cells and preserved beta cell function in newly diagnosed children and adolescents. Because it was during the pandemic, the Salaki family was able to uproot and replant themselves at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while continuing to work and attend school virtually.
“In our family, research wins,” Cara said. “We can’t advocate enough for what could be, thanks to the scientific world of clinical trials and the genius staff of doctors and nurses.”
A New Support Community
In JDRF Ride, the Salaki family found a whole new community of support. “Their encouragement of Drew and our family has been nothing short of incredible,” Cara said.
Drew’s fellow riders also imparted wisdom that has helped give him a more positive approach to T1D. “You are not going to have a perfect blood sugar every day,” he said. “But we learn from our mistakes to help us in the future.”
Drew encourages more kids his age to join Ride: “Even if you can’t ride too many miles, it’s about the experience and the fun with everyone around you!”
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