Hello, my name is Ryan DeGroff and I’ve been kicking diabetes’ butt for 16 years. On February 14th, 1998 at 8 years old, my life changed forever. After about two weeks of not feeling well, days of constant thirst, going to the bathroom 10+ times a day and losing weight my parents knew something was wrong. An hour after visiting the pediatrician we were on our way to the emergency room. From day one my family and I made sure diabetes didn’t change my life. The day after I was discharged from the hospital I played in my first basketball game as a diabetic. At the time, my feeling about my illness was not terrible, I think mostly because I didn’t know what lay ahead. I wasn’t embarrassed but I do remember feeling that I was different from everyone else. This changed during my first summer at Camp Joslin.
On 200 acres outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to find a place where I felt at home and with people I could talk too. It became the most influential place of my life at that point in time. Camp Joslin has been a place where young men with diabetes have been spending their summers for more than 60 years. Seeing kids of all ages, with similar interests, all living with diabetes was exactly what I needed at 8 years old. I saw that all of these other boys were living “normal” lives with diabetes and so could I. I just had to figure out how to manage it with sports, school, and anything I wanted to do.
Graduating from high school as a 3 sport athlete proved to me that diabetes did not stop me from doing what I love. I was given the opportunity to play football at Plymouth State University where I really learned how to manage every aspect of diabetes on my own. My first summer home from college I was asked to attend a Children With Diabetes conference with my friend, role model and mentor, Paul Madden. Paul was the camp director for more then 30 years at Camp Joslin and has lived with diabetes for 52 years. The attitude of each and every person involved with Children With Diabetes (CWD) is incredible, I was and continue to be inspired by them. At CWD conferences people smile, laugh, teach and learn and experiencing all of that made it crystal clear what I wanted to do in my life.
Diabetes is not just something I live with everyday anymore. Working with individuals with type 1 diabetes is now my passion. For the last 7 years I have been part of the Sports Central staff at the CWD conference held at Disney each summer. Since graduating from college I am focused on finding ways to be part of organizations that are dedicated to bettering the lives of people with diabetes. Last month I became the project manager for a non profit organization named Ha! (Hypoglycemia Awareness). Ha!’s mission is to raise the public’s awareness about hypoglycemia and to educate them about the very serious aspect of diabetes.