In the United States alone, over 1 million people are affected by type 1 diabetes and the struggles it produces. Among those 1 million, 200,000 of those are children under the age of 20. Matt Roach's son, Logan, was one of the unfortunate children affected by the disease. Matt took his family's love for hockey to help raise awareness and donations for type 1 diabetes and the JDRF. Matt and Logan created Hockey Fights T1D in 2014. Matt sat down with us to discuss the amazing things his organization is doing to raise type 1 diabetes awareness through hockey.
As many as 3 million American’s are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Can you explain to us exactly what Type 1 Diabetes is?
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the insulin producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. When food breaks down into sugar, your bodies’ insulin turns the sugar into energy. Type 1 Diabetes, is managed by testing your blood sugar and administering insulin. You need to count carbohydrates that you consume and take insulin to offset them. Managing Diabetes is a 24/7 job that you never get a break from. Mismanaging your Diabetes can have serious health consequences up to and including death.
What measures do hockey players have to take to keep themselves safe when playing?
The measures that players take starts early in the day with a pregame meal that they know how their body will react to it. The day involves lots of testing of your blood sugar to make sure that your levels are safe for you to compete at your best. Most players will test before the game, in between periods and on the bench when they are just not feeling “right”. It is important to have fast acting sugar on the bench so that if you do have a low blood sugar you can treat it. It is also important that the coach, trainer or even a teammate knows the sighs of a low blood sugar so they can help you if needed.
What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to get involved in a sport but feels they can’t because of Type 1 Diabetes?
Don’t let it hold you back! You can do anything that you put your mind to. You may need to prepare more ahead of time and carefully monitor your blood sugars but it will not hold you back. There are people competing all other world at the highest levels who have Type 1 Diabetes. It will not stop you from playing!
Professional athletes are praised for their ability to compete regardless of any adversity. Who are some athletes in professional sports today who are affected by type 1 diabetes?
There are a few that I know are currently active and a few retired. Currently you have Max Domi from the Arizona Coyotes, Cory Conacher who plays in the Tampa Bay organization, Tayolr Vause from the Vienna Capital (in Austria), Anthony Ast who is currently playing in Germany and Patrick McCarthy who plays for Post University. Players who are now retired include BJ Combeen (Arizona), Toby Petersen (Dallas), Nick Boynton (Chicago) and probably the most famous of all is Bobby Clark (Philadelphia). Those are just a few that I know of at the moment. It seems like we are learning more all the time.
What is the most crucial thing you want people to understand about Hockey Fights Type 1 Diabetes and the noble cause you fight for?
I would want people to know that we are an awareness and fundraising group. We are here to educate people about Type 1 Diabetes and that we use hockey events as a platform to raise awareness. I would also want people to know that we are a 100% volunteer organization powered by the generosity of others.
Donations are always an important thing to a non-profit organization. What is the best way for someone who wants to get involved with you go about doing so?
One very easy and helpful thing that people can do it to Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram by doing so you will help us raise awareness. Also by making a purchase from our store you help us get the word out about what we are doing. If making a donation is something you are into you can do so online at http://www2.jdrf.org/hockeyfightsT1D.
Your Fall Freeze event is one of your biggest events you host all year. Explain to us what the event is all about and what the format of the tournament is.
The Fall Freeze is our Annual major fundraising and awareness event. It consists of a friendly afternoon of hockey and many items that are raffled off. Most of the raffle items are donated from local businesses in support of our cause. In just three short years, we have grown from 26 players to over 90 players that participated in the 2016 Fall Freeze. The player registration fee includes a jersey, a nameplate, a small gift and ice time. The first Fall Freeze was planned in just under a month and was the start of Hockey Fights T1D. Each year, our event has grown bigger and bigger with more players, more raffle items, and more sponsors. All the proceeds from this event, and all our other fundraising events go to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).
Do you have any events you’re looking forward to in the upcoming year?
I look forward to all the events that we do every year. It would be hard to pick just one. If I had to pick I would say our Pro Experience that we do with the Syracuse Crunch. We have really developed a great partnership with them and Jonathan Smaldon makes working with them a really easy going experience.
Your Pro Experience event is a very unique thing your organization does. Could you tell us a bit about how the Pro Experience works?
The Pro Experiences are my favorite events that we do. We take a group of rec league hockey players to a pro rink and let them have the same experience that the professional players have. They get to use the locker rooms, skate on the ice, and have a meal in the rink. Our events usually include a ticket to the pro game at night. It is a really good time and a great over all experience. They guys and gals love it and our partners are so easy to work with it makes it a blast to plan them.
Your T1D jersey that you designed with diabetic pro hockey player Taylor Vause is an exceptionally symbolic and well thought-out jersey. How does one go about placing an order for one of the sweaters?
You can visit our online store at https://squareup.com/market/HockeyFightsT1D/ to place an order. In addition to the jerseys we have shirts, hoodies, and other items for sale. If you in Canada and looking to place an order email us at ORDERS@HOCKEYFIGHTST1D.ORG and we can get you taken care of. We have 4 different jersey designs that can be customized with a name and number if you would like.
What is your ultimate goal for the Hockey Fights T1D organization as you continue to grow?
My ultimate goal would be to get to the level of awareness and fundraising that you see for other diseases and to have partnership with teams at every level of hockey. I would like to expand our awareness nights and have Pro Experiences all other the US and Canada.