Raiders CB Chimdi Chekwa teamed up with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Diabetes and Sports Health (DASH) camps to put on Camp One, a sports camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes, at Menlo Atherton High School. Chekwa’s teammates DB Phillip Adams and QB Terrelle Pryor, as well as nine Raiderettes, including Maureen who is a Type 1 diabetic, participated in Camp One, encouraging the campers and helping everyone have fun on a sunny Saturday in the Bay Area.
Chekwa was able to host Camp One with the help of JDRF, the largest global organization focused on Type 1 diabetes research. “[JDRF] was started back in the 1970’s by a group of parents that really were not feeling that enough research was being done,” explained Stan Pachura, President of the Executive Board of the Greater Bay Area Chapter of JDRF. “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease so it’s different than Type 2 diabetes. We have raised over $1.7 billion for Type 1 diabetes research since the organization was formed. We partner with universities and other research organizations and provide the funding to do diabetes research.”
During a radio interview prior to the camp, Chekwa explained his motivation for teaming up with JDRF, which Pachura shared with the campers. Pachura talked about how Chekwa was moved by the difficulties that children with Type 1 diabetes face on a daily basis and that watching them struggle with something they did not cause gave him a new perspective. Chekwa explained how he wants to use the platform he’s been given in the NFL to help inspire kids.
CB Chimdi Chekwa and DB Phillip Adams pose for a photo with some of the campers. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Pachura was moved by Chekwa’s sentiments and was thrilled to have Chekwa and the Oakland Raiders organization play such a large role in Camp One. “It’s a way for the Raiders to bring some excitement to a day like today, but also to bring some recognition to the cause of Type 1 diabetes and a cure and prevention,” said Pachura. “It’s a way for them to really express, I think, support for the community they perform in.”
Chekwa, after learning about Type 1 diabetes, was impressed with kids overcoming the challenges of the disease every day. “They still do sports, they still continue to do all the things they have to do – like I found out Jay Cutler also has Type 1 and he still plays football,” said Chekwa. “It was inspiring to me that they can push through those obstacles and I wanted to use it as a way to get more people to get to know about Type 1, but also let other people know that if these kids can push through having Type 1 diabetes and continue to do what they set their minds out to do, anybody can.”
JDRF and Chekwa were able to team up with DASH Camps, which was created by Lucas Fogerty, who had always wished as a kid with diabetes, that there was a sports camp for people like him. “As a kid, there were diabetes camps and then there were sports camps. There was nothing that combined both,” said Fogerty. “So DASH occupies the niche of sports and diabetes and we teach the kids and also their best friends and also the family members that diabetes, it’s okay, it’s okay to have diabetes. That even though you have it, you can do anything you want, anything you can dream of.”
QB Terrelle Pryor takes a photo with two of the young campers at Camp One. Photo by Tony Gonzales
The teamwork between the three entities created a camp giving kids with Type 1 diabetes a controlled environment to participate in sports the same way a child without diabetes would. “We did a little bit of diabetes education here and there,” said Fogerty. “Basically we want the kids to learn by doing and so we have them check [their blood sugar levels] before their activities and kind of always asking the questions, ‘how do you feel,’ ‘can you sense your blood sugar is going down’ or ‘can you sense it going up?’ just so they start to think about this is how I feel and if I check, this is what that means. Kind of taking the clinical, medical side of diabetes and putting it on the field.”
Fogerty, who puts on camps frequently, thought the Raiders participation was awesome. “I think, just in general, [the Raiders players’] outreach to the general population in terms of diabetes awareness is monumental,” said Fogerty. “In America, it’s an epidemic. To have those guys there and to have the Oakland Raiders organization have people who have diabetes backs, that’s monumental. These kids look up to them and if they hear from Chimdi that they acknowledge the obstacles that exist for people who have diabetes it’s awesome. And then to not only acknowledge it, but celebrate the person who has diabetes, as a kid, this would be the coolest camp I could imagine going to.”
Chekwa hopes to host the camp annually and was happy with the first go around. “It went very well,” said Chekwa. “We had a good turnout. The kids are having a whole lot of fun. I’m having a lot of fun. My teammates came out to support me. Raiderettes came out so it was a great time.”
Adams wanted to participate in the camp to support his teammate as well as support the cause. “The cause is dear to me because I have family that deals with diabetes,” said Adams. “I had a wonderful time with the kids and just being around them. I had a real good time. I hope the kids continue to work hard no matter what the obstacles are. Their diabetes - not to let that hold them back. I don’t want them to feel like because they have this that it can hold them back from anything they want to do in their lives. Continue to keep on working hard and doing what they do. I was really happy to be there and be around them.”
Group photo at the first annual Camp One, hosted by Chimdi Chekwa, JDRF and DASH camps. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Pryor also spent time with the kids on the field. “This is something that should have awareness and be something people should know about,” said Pryor. “I just wanted to come out and support Chim and Chim’s doing a great job with this camp and I think it’s a great cause. I had a great time playing with the kids, throwing the ball a little bit and just taking pictures.”
This camp was especially important to Raiderette Maureen, who cheered on the kids with eight of her Raiderette teammates, because she deals with Type 1 diabetes herself. “I wanted to be here today because I am a Type 1 diabetic and it was nice to get to know some of the kids here that have diabetes too,” said Maureen. “I just wanted the kids to know that anything they want to achieve is definitely possible. I’m out here being a Raiderette and I’ve always wanted to do that so anything they want to do is possible. Diabetes does not define who they are.”
It meant a lot to Maureen that Raiders players were bringing awareness to Type 1 diabetes. “It makes me really happy to know that diabetes is not going unnoticed,” said Maureen. “Since it’s important to me, it makes me happy to know that other people support it as well.”
Having the Raiderettes and two teammates come out to Menlo-Atherton to participate in Camp One was significant for Chekwa.” It means a lot because you know you have that support system around you and you know that you have guys you can call on to help you out with an event or whatever you’re trying to do,” said Chekwa. “You want to do the same thing when they have an event or do something positive in the community so it meant a whole lot.”
The kids, players, cheerleaders and volunteers had a great time running around in the sun, spending time together, and proving that Type 1 diabetes, although a challenge, does not have to prevent one from doing anything. “Being challenged in life is inevitable, but being defeated in life is optional,” said a quote from Rev. Run on Pryor’s twitter March 14. The kids and their families may be challenged with Type 1 diabetes every day, but they are not defeated. Chekwa, JDRF and DASH are making sure of it.