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Emily and Jerry’s big Kiwi adventure

Posted on 10 October 2017 at 10:17am by Disabilities Resource Centre, Southland

Wanaka multisport athlete Emily Wilson is the International Diabetes Federation youth ambassador for New Zealand. She and diabetes mascot Jerry the Bear will be doing a multisport adventure the length of NZ during Diabetes Action Month, November 2017.  Diabetes awareness is Wanaka multisporter Emily Wilson's lifelong cause and Jerry the Bear is up for the ride.

In recent years, the International Diabetes Federation youth ambassador for New Zealand has ridden her bike countless times up Treble Cone, traversed the mountainous Pyrenees in Spain, pushed Wanaka trolley teams to new thresholds of speed and volunteered for conservation groups working with North Thailand's elephants.

For November's Diabetes Action Month, Wilson, 26, is taking Jerry on a multisport tour of New Zealand, travelling from Cape Reinga to Bluff by bike, foot, kayak and packraft.  Jerry the Bear was made by a diabetes education group in the United States and, like Wilson, he has type 1 diabetes.

Wilson says Jerry is wonderful with youngsters because he comes with apps and can show kids how he tests his blood sugar and insulin levels.  Emily and Jerry start on November 1, will call through Auckland and then celebrate World Diabetes Day in Tauranga on November 14.

They will also visit Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and plan to reach Bluff around December 3.  "Logistically it will be pretty hard to do it all in November. I will be sea kayaking, pack rafting, mountain biking, road biking, and a bit of paddle boarding. But I will catch the ferry in the middle, in case there is variable weather. I am on a tight timeframe," she said.

"My diabetes message is that diabetes should not stop you. Any chronic illness should not stop you from doing what you want to do," she said.

Wilson said she was excited about meeting children at various teddy bear picnics and meetings being organised by Diabetes youth branches along the way.  She was looking forward to Northland's beaches, the Bridge to Nowhere Ride and pack rafting the Whanganui River. The Timber Trail in Taumaranui  and the South Island's Dansey's Pass would also be highlights, she said.

"I've got to kind of huck it down the South Island. You have to compromise with adventure. You could take three months and go where you want or take one month to do what you have got to do to spread the message. I will be concentrating on getting to the events and reaching the people," she said.

Wilson says while diabetes can be "a handbrake", she doesn't let it hold her back.  "For parents, I know it is tough, but kids can be active. Let them do it. I want to be positive, because I live with it too," she said.

Earlier this year Wilson did a lot of volunteer work while rehabilitating from knee surgery. "I am feeling really empathetic and connected to the community. I would rather be doing this than having money to make me feel really good. I want to be involved in community decisions. And I want to be a voice for youth as well . . . It is a lifelong commitment," she said.

"I am still on a crusade for better technology, more support and policies that support prevention rather than ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. For all diabetes, not just type 1 diabetes."

Abridged, Taken from an article by Marjorie Cook, Southland Times, 6 October 2017

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