SUNY Potsdam coach Stokes to ride, raise funds for Tour de Cure benefit for diabetes research

02.25.14

It is something that affects nearly 26 million Americans, requires periodic monitoring and can lead to serious problems in the heart causing death and leaving affected friends and family members with only the memories of that person to cherish. 

Diabetes, an affliction that is a lifelong and chronic disease that causes blood glucose levels to rise higher than normal, has become an epidemic killer.

It now takes the lives of more Americans each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

And, it has come with a hefty price tag as the total cost of diagnosed diabetes in this country has tolled $245 billion according to 2012 news research by the American Diabetes Association.

Two out of three people with diabetes will now die from heart disease or stroke.  Ways to combat this are to ensure that a person's cholesterol levels and blood pressure rates are in check and by being a non-smoker.  Cholesterol levels should be below 100 and blood pressure rates that are considered healthy are around 130/80.

Physical activity can drastically reduce the chances of developing diabetes.  An average of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week can reduce a person's chances of developing diabetes by 58 percent.

SUNY Potsdam volleyball coach Josh Stokes will be carrying the torch of Bears pride to one of the largest bike riding events in the United States to create awareness and collect fund raising for the American Diabetes Association on June 1 at the Saratoga Springs Tour de Cure at Saratoga Springs High School.

The disease hit close to home when coach Stokes learned that his wife's uncle, Ron St. Amand, has been battling Type II Diabetes.

With Type II, the most common form of diabetes, the body does not use insulin in the proper way.  At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for the void.  Over a length of time, the pancreas can not keep up and does not make a sufficient amount of insulin to keep the blood glucose level at a normal level.

High levels of blood glucose can damage small blood vessels throughout the body such as the eyes, kidneys and nerves in the feet.  It can also harm large blood vessels like ones in the heart.

Stokes said that the least that he could do was get behind the ride by actually being a participant himself and attempt to raise as much money and awareness that he could to help stomp out the disease for good.

When thumbing through potential slogans for the event, Stokes quickly warmed up to the play on words of "Let's Diabeat this" and stuck it to his web page: main.diabetes.org/site/TR?px=8478436&fr_id=9347&pg=personal

Upon visiting his site, browsers can read Stokes' story on why he rides, find out more information about diabetes and people can also elect to join his team to ride in the event.  Any donations are highly encouraged.

"Go Red rider, go!" has officially become the signature calling line for people in support of those riders who have diabetes and are participating in the ride.  The expression is called out when a rider passes somebody donned with a red jersey.  All participants in red jerseys have diabetes.

The distance of the ride can vary between five, 10, 25, 50, a century (100 miles) or a three-hour spin.

Coach Stokes is also looking to add a new wrinkle in this year's race by adding Potsdam lettering up his pant leg to represent SUNY Potsdam.

There are four stops along the race course, but the last two miles feature the last downhill part of the course.

Stokes said last year that he and his group were able to catch a happy coincidence in that they were able to break apart from the rest of the riders by making it through the traffic light before it turned red.

It created an exciting finish where they were placed into the lone spotlight by being the only group coming down the final stretch.  With the finish line at Saratoga High School, there were people jumping up and down and cheering and clapping for the group. 

"With music blaring and the public address announcer cheering the group on, my wife's uncle raised his arms like he was a winner cruising to victory," said coach Stokes.

"His wife, Debbie asked ,'Didn't it just feel like you had won the Tour de France?'  They were all in such a awe that they finished the 50 miles and were so happy how well received the event was that day."

The same group of seven family members and friends of the Stokes family plan on riding the 50 miles again on June 1.

"Anytime it comes down to people having to deal with these awful diseases, I want to give my support any way that I can," said coach Stokes.

"Typically, people could use the help financially, so I just try to get as much as I can.  My wife's uncle is so afflicted that he had to check his blood sugar every eight miles just to make sure that he doesn't go in the danger zones.  I see him out there riding and loving every minute of it and then I realize how tough he is."

For interested parties who would like to participate in the race, sign ups are at Tour De Cure at www.tour.diabetes.org.  The race is looking to achieve a fund raising goal of at least $200 per participant.