Something in Common

Danette Dooley
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Four teens from the province have received recognition of their achievements, which include not letting diabetes derail their ambitions

Brian Corcoran says he's never let diabetes stop him from doing anything. Recently, he didn't have a choice. The Labrador City teen, a graduate of Menihek high school, has been involved in numerous volunteer activities and community-based groups over the years.

He was a member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets for six years and moved up through the ranks from cadet to chief petty officer first class and chief of the sea cadet camp, HMCS Avalon, in St. John's last summer.

Brian Corcoran, shown sailing last summer as part of a program run by the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 191 Labrador, is one of four teens in this province to receive scholarships from the Diabetes Hope Foundation. - Submitted photo

Brian Corcoran says he's never let diabetes stop him from doing anything. Recently, he didn't have a choice. The Labrador City teen, a graduate of Menihek high school, has been involved in numerous volunteer activities and community-based groups over the years.

He was a member of the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets for six years and moved up through the ranks from cadet to chief petty officer first class and chief of the sea cadet camp, HMCS Avalon, in St. John's last summer.

He was also the assistant sail instructor for 2006 and chief sail instructor of the Labrador Region for 2007 with Cadets Canada.

Determined to give back to the cadet movement by becoming an officer, Corcoran completed the necessary paperwork, interviews and medicals. However, he was denied enrollment into the Cadet Instructor Cadre because of his diabetes.

Corcoran says he performed all the same physical and mental tasks that officers do when he was a cadet.

He calls his rejection "unjust."

"Why should diabetes affect my ability to be an officer? I have never had a problem with my diabetes," he said.

Corcoran recently completed his first year of university through the College of the North Atlantic campus in Labrador West.

He said he's confident that his diabetes will not get in his way as he works towards a degree in electrical engineering.

Corcoran is one of four teens from this province with diabetes who received post-secondary education scholarships worth $2,500 last month from the Diabetes Hope Foundation.

More than 2 million Canadians have diabetes.

The Diabetes Hope Foundation was formed in 1999 by Barbara Pasternak of Ontario after two of her three sons were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

The organization expanded into Newfoundland because this province has the fourth- highest rate of diabetes in the world and the highest rate in North America.

"We feel that our scholarship and medical assistance programs can make an important difference for those who endure diabetes, the disease that has no cure," Pasternak says.

In the last decade, the group has awarded more than 200 scholarships and has donated insulin and support products to more than 100 families.

Melissa Saunders of Coley's Point also received a Diabetes Hope Foundation scholarship. A recent graduate of Ascension Collegiate and a talented musician, she has performed at Graceland and at the Grand Ole Opry. She has also represented Newfoundland and Labrador at the Skate Canada Junior Nationals competition and is a professional CanSkate coach.

She hopes to pursue a career in medicine or pharmacy.

Allison Boone, a recent graduate of Corner Brook Regional High, will use her Diabetes Hope Foundation scholarship when she attends Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in September. She hopes to eventually study nursing. An honours student and skilled trumpet player, she promotes human rights as an Amnesty International activist, is a member of the Youth Bowling Council and has competed at tournaments throughout the country.

Living with diabetes means monitoring her blood sugars no matter where she goes or what she's doing.

"I am constantly checking them to make sure that they are under control. However, my life with diabetes changed once I received the insulin pump six years ago. Diabetes has been much easier to control ever since then, and I have more freedom."

Brittany Trickett of Carbonear was diagnosed with diabetes at age two, and said her most memorable childhood experience was her once-a-week treat.

"Every Sunday, my family used to go for a drive and get an ice cream. That was the only treat I had for many years," she said.

An avid saxophone and trumpet player, she is proud that she has her diabetes under control. "I do not let it control me anymore."

Trickett graduated from Carbonear Collegiate in June and plans on pursuing a career in radiography. Her Diabetes Hope Foundation scholarship will help her achieve that goal, she says.

Trickett says it's important that people understand that life experiences, not diabetes, shape a person.

"If anything, diabetes should make you become a stronger person because you have to realize that as diabetics, we work twice as hard as everyone else to keep ourselves healthy."

For more information about the Diabetes Hope Foundation, visit website www.diabetes-hopefoundation.com

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Diabetes Hope Foundation, Grand Ole Opry Skate Canada Junior Nationals Amnesty International Youth Bowling Council

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Labrador West Ontario North America

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