POTSDAM -- SUNY Potsdam volleyball coach Josh Strokes will carry the torch of Bears pride to one of the largest bike riding events in the United States to raise awareness and fundraise for the American Diabetes Association.
The “Saratoga Springs Tour de Cure” takes place in June 1 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 or donate.
Stokes is looking to add a new wrinkle in this year's race by adding Potsdam lettering up his pant leg to represent SUNY Potsdam.
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.