The Canadian Diabetes Association has recognized a Thunder Bay family for its inspirational work on behalf of people with diabetes.
The Wepruk family has been awarded the Dave Speer Inspiration Award, which is presented to an inspirational individual, or family, who has overcome great obstacles to manage their diabetes and continues to enjoy a fulfilling and active lifestyle.
In spite of being diagnosed with diabetes, this individual, or family, has achieved success personally, as well as within their community.
Diabetes always has been a part of the Wepruk family. Randy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1964.
As a child, Randy spent summers at camps for children with diabetes (Lake Shebandowan), where he received training in giving himself insulin shots, urine glucose tests (there were no glucometers back then), diet, and exercise.
In 1969, Randy received a CDA sponsorship to Camp Huronda, where he has fond memories of a five-day canoe trip and getting “smores” as a treat after a long day of paddling.
This was one of the things that helped Randy make the decision to study biological science.
Throughout his career or personal life, Randy has never allowed his diabetes to hold him back. He also holds his certification as a sky diver and a scuba diver.
“In 1981, Randy was one of the founding members of the Fort Frances & District branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association,” noted Suzanne Sterling, regional director for the CDA.
“After their move to Red Lake, Randy continued to hold leadership positions with the Patricia Area branch.”
Randy and his wife, Denise, have a son, Danny, and a daughter, Erin. At the age of six, Danny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
As Randy puts it, “to Danny, this was a ‘game’ that he had been exposed to all his life, watching me go through my daily routine and then becoming one of the game participants.”
When Danny and Erin began competitive swimming, Randy trained to be an official at formal swim meets so he could be on deck during competitions to monitor his son’s diabetes.
Randy also supports the Canadian Diabetes Association as an advocacy volunteer, which ultimately helps improve the lives of all people with diabetes.
With diabetes affecting the entire family, the Wepruks always have kept a positive attitude and worked hard to make a difference for not only their family but everyone living with diabetes.
Dave Speer, for whom the award is named after, was the former reeve of Terrace Bay and a railway engineer who, when it was learned he had diabetes, was demoted and re-assigned.
He worked with the Canadian Diabetes Association to successfully advocate changes to the Railway Association of Canada medical guidelines to allow individuals with well-managed diabetes to be able to work in safety-critical positions such as train engineer.
Speer passed away in January, 2010 but his legacy lives on.
Diabetes Awareness Month in November is the CDA’s annual opportunity to focus public attention on the seriousness of diabetes and the impact of the disease on the lives of Canadians, our economy, and our health care system.