People with diabetes come in all ages and sizes, their blood sugar levels controlled by medication in a pill, a pump or injection.

Managing the symptoms is like trying to anticipate the next turn on a roller-coaster ride. It’s a never-ending track characterized by sharp dips, steep climbs and abrupt twists in blood sugar levels.

For diabetics looking for a more controlled ride, the American Diabetes Association’s 20th annual Tour de Cure will be held Sunday, featuring pre-planned routes, rest stops, a set finish line and a clearly defined end goal: to find a cure for what ails them.

According to race manager Emily Silevinac, Tour de Cure is the ADA’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds benefiting research, education and advocacy work for diabetics.

Formerly held at satellite race locales, including Biddeford and Bar Harbor, the race has been held exclusively in Kennebunk for the past four years.

“Last year, we had 486 participants,” said Silevinac. “This year, we’re expecting closer to 800 riders. We offer five different riding routes, to challenge every level of cyclist, from a three-mile Family Fun Ride to a 100-mile Century Ride for serious cyclists.”

The cyclists will include Red Shirt Riders, who are diabetics who ride for a cure. Among them will be Ana Lipp, 10, of New Gloucester, and David Schoppee, 54, of Scarborough; both are insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetics.

Ana has attended the event since age 5, first as a volunteer and, last year, as a cyclist along with her mom, Kim Lipp.

“This has been such a great experience for Ana,” said her mother. “She’s is so appreciative to be able to come and help advance a cure for this disease.

“Last year, she formed her own riding team and got to wear her first Red Rider jersey. She was so proud. People lined the (race route) and cheered whenever they saw a red jersey go by. It made her feel like a rock star.”

For Schoppee, participating in the event offers a practical way to support a worthy cause while promoting fitness for diabetics.

A former minor league baseball player for the Red Sox organization, Schoppee maintains a disciplined fitness regimen to stay fit and help regulate his blood sugar.

He logs about 3,000 cycling miles on the road in seasonable months and cycles on an indoor trainer during winter.

This will be Schoppee’s fourth Tour de Cure as a Metric Century (67-mile) rider.

Asked why he rides, Schoppee replied, “Simply put: I ride because I can.”

“Events like (Tour de Cure) have made huge strides in raising awareness and funds for research to find a cure,” said Schoppee. “Biking, as a form of physical fitness, is a big part of my life. So, it only makes sense that I would participate in the ride that addresses my particular disease.”

Knowing that diabetes is a hereditary disease also fuels Schoppee’s resolve. His 22-year-old daughter has had Type 1 diabetes since age 13.

Dave’s wife, Juli Schoppee, will play a behind-the-scenes supporting role Sunday. She’ll check in with him at a few rest stops.

Like Kim Lipp, Juli downplays her role, but she daily helps to shoulder the burden of managing the disease at home.

“Diabetes is a disease that affects the entire family and all of your activities,” said Juli. “You can’t just walk out the door, get in your car and go. First, you’ve got to check your blood sugar, make sure you’ve got your test kit, insulin and snacks in case your blood sugar goes low.

“The challenge for parents of a diabetic child is learning to monitor the situation while teaching your child to take ownership of managing their own symptoms.”

Kim Lipp agrees. She praised the ADA’s diabetes education programs (funded by events like Tour de Cure) with equipping her family following Ana’s diagnosis at age 4.

The family spent a few days at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center for an around-the-clock intensive in learning how to monitor and manage Ana’s blood sugar.

Ana does not remember a life apart from diabetes, including several-times-a-day blood tests and insulin shots following every meal.

“It’s a challenge,” said Ana. “But everyone has challenges. For me, it’s like brushing your teeth. It’s just something you’ve got to do every day.”

On Sunday, cyclists and supporters from around the state will converge on the Kennebunk High School campus for Tour de Cure and auxiliary activities, including information booths and a barbecue.

Pledges can still be made at http://main.diabetes.org/KennebunksTourdeCure.

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]