The Merwin Family: Aiming for the Ultimate Finish Line

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Saige, Samantha, and Doug Merwin at the 2022 JDRF Ride in Saratoga Springs, NY

L-R: Saige, Samantha, and Doug Merwin at the 2022 JDRF Ride in Saratoga Springs, NY

After their child, Saige, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at 17 months old, Doug and Samantha Merwin turned to JDRF for support.

There, they found their purpose.

First, the Merwin family joined One Walk, which inspired them to get more involved. They helped set up local T1D playgroups and worked with other parent advocates to create a local Facebook parent group, now almost 700 parents strong! Years later, Samantha worked closely with their chapter to help establish consistent community events. “My goal was—and still is—that no family should feel isolated at diagnosis,” Samantha said.

Their work with JDRF continued to expand to include advocacy and participation on their community board, where Samantha is currently starting her third term as community engagement lead. “People often think I work at JDRF since I volunteer at everything,” she said. “But I just do what is needed to support the T1D community.” In addition, Saige has served as a Youth Ambassador, a JDRF Children’s Congress Delegate, and a volunteer at countless local JDRF events.

In honor of Saige’s 10-year diaversary, the Merwins decided to participate in Walk, Ride, and Team JDRF…all in the same year! The rest, they say, is history.

Tenacity for T1D

Saige and Samantha Merwin at the 2017 RunDisney Marathon Weekend 5K as part of Team JDRF
Saige and Samantha at the 2017 RunDisney Marathon Weekend 5K as part of Team JDRF

Saige and Samantha started running together with Team JDRF in 2016. “It’s such a special weekend,” Samantha said. “I love the energy, the commitment of the runners, and, of course, standing in the corrals at 3:30 a.m. waiting for the race to start.” To date, Saige and Samantha have run over 70 miles for JDRF.

The Merwins started a fundraiser for Team JDRF that has now carried over to Ride: they write the names of all their donors on their legs for the event. “When the ride or run gets hard, we tell them we will look down and remember that we are participating for everyone in the community, not just our family,” Samantha said.

Doug and Saige with donor names written on their legs for inspiration
Doug and Saige with donor names written on their legs for inspiration

Their journey with JDRF Ride began in 2017 in Saratoga Springs, where Samantha and Saige volunteered at the finish line. It became their standard volunteer post, including the following year, when Samantha and Doug planned something special. “Saige thought Doug was working and couldn’t volunteer with us,” Samantha said. “It was a huge surprise when he crossed the finish line!”

Saige started riding with Doug in 2022. That year’s Ride held a special meaning for Samantha—she was able to put a medal around both her husband’s and child’s necks after they crossed the finish line. She was also awarded the Volunteer Dedication Jersey, which was incredibly humbling. “I truly appreciate how the Ride community embraced our family from the beginning and look forward to volunteering every year,” she said.

For Saige, the 2023 Ride in Burlington, VT, stands out. “It was my longest distance ride yet at 78.6 miles! Also, riding in the pouring rain with other people with T1D was memorable.”

This year will be Saige’s third Ride. So far, Saige has ridden 172 miles and plans to increase that number by 100 this year!

Hope for the Future

Volunteering and fundraising for JDRF gives the Merwin family hope. “I look at how much simpler it is for Saige to manage T1D now versus years ago,” Samantha said. “JDRF’s research funding is our best chance for a better life for Saige.”

The Merwins are also fierce advocates for affordable insulin and know their efforts are making an impact. “The funding for Civica is so critical, especially now with the insulin shortages, which we have been personally impacted by,” Doug said.

Saige will head to college in the Fall of 2025 to study meteorology and get more involved with technology. JDRF will be there every step of the way. “I won’t stop until we cross our ultimate finish line: cures.”

Register now for a 2024 JDRF Ride!

Go the distance and register for a Team JDRF event today!