Why I Ride – T1D sisters make it a family affair

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JDRF Ride to Cure season is upon us once again and registration is open!  In this blog post, we meet two T1D sisters – Ali and Emily Gruen – who have taken on the JDRF Ride a number of times in this family affair to cure T1D. Join them & the Southeastern Wisconsin Team on 2020 on a JDRF Ride for a truly memorable, life-changing experience on our shared vision of a world without T1D. ride.jdrf.org.

What is your connection to JDRF?

Emily – JDRF has been an important part of our family’s life for over 17 years. Back in 2003, I was diagnosed with T1D- changing my life forever. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I went through many phases of denying this disease. After receiving so much love and support from family and friends, I decided to embrace this disease and not let it stop me. I formed lifelong friends at diabetes camp, and I continue to go back every summer to volunteer. I also thrived in college, becoming fiercely independent and discovered my love for fitness and adventure. That love for fitness led me to finally signing up for my first JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. Fast forward to now- I am now a Registered Nurse and get to do what I love everyday while still managing this disease!

Ali –  Shortly after Emily was diagnosed, my mom Catherine, rode in her first Ride to Cure in Death Valley after hearing about JDRF from her T1D friend. Little did she know that I would be diagnosed a month after she rode in Death Valley in 2003 at age 9.  I knew what the disease was since Emily was diagnosed earlier, and I was hysterical in the doctors office denying that I had it. I didn’t want to have to take shots like Emily did and have to deal with insulins like NPH, where we had to have eating schedules (there was hardly any variability in the schedule) and would have to run up and down the stairs to make our blood sugars low so we could eat dessert after dinner. I soon got over all of that, and realized that the support from my family made it easier to deal with. I now couldn’t imagine my life without having all the experiences from living with diabetes and am thankful that I have had support from everyone along the way!

We have grown up managing and tackling this disease together, and could not have done it without the support of our family and friends. Being a part of the JDRF family has been very special for our family, as we have been a part of over 18 Ride to Cures and many JDRF events and programs. We trust this community and know that one day we will see a cure.

Why did you first decide to participate in Ride?

Watching our mom ride year after year, she was an inspiration to us both.

Ali – I wanted to start riding right away. I decided to sign up for Death Valley when I was just 13. I thought it would be a good challenge and little did I know how much training had to go into it. I would go on bike rides after soccer practices, would skip hanging out with friends and spent way to much time with my mom on a bike for a 13-year-old. However, after my first ride (and completing 100 miles) – I was hooked and could never imagine a summer without training and fundraising for a  JDRF Ride. Since then, she has only missed one ride and this year it will be her 12th ride to cure!  I eventually convinced my sister Emily to do her first ride years later to join my mom and I. Then I convinced my now husband to do it, which lead to his mom into doing her first ride this past year. I have met so many amazing people doing the JDRF rides and I will continue to tell people, connected or not connected to diabetes, about this ride and will try to convince more people to find a cure one bike ride at a time!

Emily – Year after year Ali and my mom would ask me to start riding. I never thought I was strong enough, emotionally or physically, to do the full 100 miles that they were doing. However, I finally decided to sign up for my first Ride to Cure when I was 20, and it was the best decision I made. I trained hard all summer long to try and prepare myself as much as I could. Riding in that first ride of mine in La Crosse was one of my favorite experiences. I challenged myself to a task I did not think was possible- and completed it, all while doing it alongside my mom and all the JDRF family. And now, I’ll be riding in my 6th JDRF Ride to Cure this summer and could not be more proud to be a part of the JDRF community!

What is the most rewarding part of Ride Day/Weekend?

The most rewarding part of Ride Day/Weekend has got to be meeting all of the inspiring individuals and families, and hearing each of their stories. The pre-ride dinner, along with the celebration dinner after the ride, is a good way to reflect on “why we ride.” You get to see all the riders and families, in one room, and it is truly amazing.

Why would you encourage others to join the Ride to Cure Diabetes?

We would encourage others to join the Ride to Cure Diabetes because you will get to participate in an incredibly rewarding and uplifting experience. You get to meet hundreds of other families, volunteers, and JDRF staff who all have one unique commonality- finding a cure. It is truly a magical day and you have to participate in it to fully understand how special it is!

For more information, contact Erin Vella at 414.203.5531 or evella@jdrf.org.