A huge crowd is gathering in Vancouver's Stanley Park this morning for the annual Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes.
Teams of walkers, sometimes dressed in outrageous costumes, support a family member, friend, or work colleague who's coping with the disease.
Late last month, I ran into the executive chairman of Telus, Darren Entwistle, at another community event that the company was sponsoring to create a public-art project.
I asked him why the Vancouver-based telecommunications giant decided to become the title sponsor of the walk, which raises funds across Canada for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
"If you fundamentally look at the culture of Telus," Entwistle replied, "it's part of the DNA of all of our team members to give back to our communities. It's who we are and what we stand for."
He mentioned that since 2000, Telus staff members have given nearly three million hours of volunteer time in B.C. alone. He said this culture of community service has given employees something to rally around to have a meaningful impact.
"Lots of our employees and their families are impacted by Type 1 diabetes and we want to make a difference," Entwistle said.
Type 1 diabetes has many complications
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that kills insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas.
There are more than 300,000 Canadians living with Type 1 diabetes, which differs from the more common Type 2 diabetes in that it has no relationship to lifestyle.
People with Type 1 diabetes, including tens of thousands of children, receive several insulin injections a day to absorb blood sugars. In recent years thanks to technological advances, others are remaining alive with the use of insulin pumps.
Insulin pumps inject the hormone directly into the body. These devices are covered for people 25 years old and younger under the B.C. Medical Services Plan.
If people with Type 1 diabetes don't receive insulin injections, levels of blood sugar fluctuate wildly, creating life-threatening complications.
If levels fall too low, there's a risk of a person falling into a potentially fatal diabetic coma. If levels remain too high over a sustained period of time, this causes serious damage to internal organs, elevating the risk of heart disease, blindness, and kidney failure.
It really is a 24/7 disease not only for those afflicted, but also for family members who must always be on the lookout for the person's blood-sugar levels.
At the same time, there have been some astonishing success stories involving people with Type 1 diabetes. Those who live with it include singer Nick Jonas, author Anne Rice, former NHL star Bob Clarke, NDP MLA Adrian Dix, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and actors Mary Tyler Moore and Halle Berry,
Telus links technology with better health
At last month's public-art event, Telus's vice president of community investment and engagement, Jill Schnarr, told the Straight that Telus is working with the JDRF on building apps for clinical trials.
The goal is to improve contact between youth with Type 1 diabetes and their parents and health-care providers.
"Not only are we trying to find a cure, we're also helping with disease management as well," Schnarr said.
Entwistle said the company's goal is to use its technology to deliver better patient health-care outcomes with less money spent.
And he hopes that the resources of Telus can help "leverage intellectual property in Canada" to achieve the worthwhile goal of curing Type 1 diabetes.
"We also think that technology and empowering our citizens to greater care of their health and that of their families can not only remediate disease, it can prevent disease from happening in the first place," he added.
In other words, the Telus executive chairman declared, technology can also promote wellness.