Chris Gildea, with his sons, volunteering at an American Diabetes Association event. Photo provided by Katie Gildea.
BY MEGHAN BYERS
SPARTA – For the Gildea family, diabetes isn't just a disease; it's a daily battle. Sparta residents Katie and Chris Gildea, along with their two young sons, ages 3 and 7, will volunteer this June at the American Diabetes Association's upcoming Skylands Tour de Cure, an event which helps fund diabetes research. Chris Gildea, who has type 1 diabetes, has volunteered with the ADA for 10 years. This year, the Gildea family plans to help out at each Tour de Cure event in New Jersey.
"It's a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job, living with diabetes," said Katie Gildea. "Diabetes robs you of your ability to lead a care-free life."
The Tour de Cure is the ADA's biggest fundraiser. The Skylands event, which will be held at Waterloo Village, will include both a cycling portion and "fun run & walk" for non-cyclists.
While raising money for a cure is a top priority, Katie Gildea believes that education is equally important, especially when it comes to confronting the social stigma often associated with diabetes.
"A lot of people don't realize that Type 1 diabetes is separate from Type 2 diabetes, and that anyone can have it. A lot of people think it's a choice," she said. "People always tell my husband, 'You look so healthy.' But diabetes doesn't look a certain way. It can affect anyone of any age, any lifestyle."
Chris Gildea, who works at Becton-Dickinson, a company that provides diabetes care products, enjoys an athletic lifestyle despite his disease. "My kids think he's a superhero," said Katie Gildea. "He always tells them never give up, never surrender, and that's how we are with this – never give up, never surrender."
According to the ADA, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year, and approximately 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. In 2010, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
"When you have something like this that can affect your children," said Katie Gildea, "you'll do anything in your power to rid the world of it."
The Skylands Tour de Cure will take place June 4 at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, with a kickoff event taking place on March 23 at Czig Meister Brewery in Hackettstown.