As an aspiring athlete growing up in Burlington, Ottawa Senator Cory Conacher knew what it felt like to be excluded.
"When I was 14, I was cut from the triple-A team because of my diabetes. I want to give back and help the kids today prove wrong all of those people who tell them they can't do something."
Conacher, diagnosed with diabetes at 13, is a volunteer instructor with the Dskate Hockey summer camp, an instructional program designed for children with type-1 diabetes.
At the camp, held in Milton, Ont., instructors like Conacher and Olympic rower Chris Jarvis spend time helping kids sharpen their skills on the ice and teach them to properly manage their diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough insulin, the hormone that helps control the level of glucose (sugar) in blood. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy.
Nine million Canadians with diabetes, association says
Children with diabetes often suffer from extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue and blurred vision. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, approximately nine million Canadians have diabetes.
"I love doing these camps and I'm having a lot of fun being on the ice with the kids. When I was young, I had the opportunity to go to a camp for kids with diabetes, and I think it really helped. It's really important to me to help them overcome this disease and follow their dreams," said Conacher.
The camp is a partnership between Dskate and Medtronic of Canada, a medical technology company that makes devices for people with diabetes. Conacher is a spokesperson for the company and uses a pump and sensor to help regulate his sugar levels.
"Just seeing the smiles on their faces makes it all worth it for me," Conacher said.