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As of 2015, almost 10% of Canadians are living with diabetes. That number is expected to rise to more than 12% by 2025. So it's clear that there's no more important time to raise awareness about this disease and promote ways to prevent it than right now.

Sun Life Financial and Toronto Maple Leafs alumni and Hockey Hall of Fame members Doug Gilmour and Johnny Bower, along with TSN hockey analyst Jeff O'Neill hosted the seventh annual Sun Life Financial Skate with the Leafs - Alumni Edition on Sunday, February 19 to support the fight against diabetes.

As a Canadian citizen I have not one, but two, members of my immediate family living with Type 2 diabetes. And I see on a day-to-day basis what they go through and the sacrifices they make in order to make sure that their illness doesn't take any more from them than it already has. The daily pinprick blood tests, the medication regimen, how the simple act of eating becomes an obstacle course for them. I see all of this. I feel for them. It pains me that they are in the situation they are in and it worries me that one day, due to heredity, I may find myself in the same hellish, sugar-free boat.

However, despite ALL of this, I have not once done any kind of research to understand the lifestyle choices that can impact whether or not I will one day share this fate. I understand that keeping active is very important, and I do. I know that healthy diet is important, and I go out of my way to ensure that I adhere to one, but still...I have always held diabetes at arms length. I think of it as something to be dealt with down the road. Something that may come with old age. At least I did, until recently.

The Sun Life Financial Skate with the Leafs brought families and youth from community organizations, including the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) and JDRF, to the ACC to meet the Leafs heroes and get active on Family Day weekend. 

After having the opportunity to cover this event, I learned first hand how cases of Type 2 diabetes in children in Canada has been steadily rising, as our lives become more sedentary and our diets more cavalier. I learned that there are some very simple, fundamental steps that can be taken to actively decrease the chance that diabetes will become a problem and that the simplest of all of these is to simply stay active as best we can. That was exactly the point at the Air Canada Centre this week. Motivating young people and their families to get up, get out and get active as a preventative measure for an extremely preventative disease. It's as much about awareness as it is about action, because up until this point I didn't fully understand the resources available to Canadians for help. There's even an online quiz that determines your risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes. I got an 8, I dare you to beat me!

Since announcing diabetes as a key business and community giving priority across its global footprint, Sun Life has proudly committed over $17 million to the cause.

The event helps to raise much needed awareness for diabetes prevention by encouraging families to stay active. And there's no more unique way to stay active than by sharing the most iconic arena in Toronto with some of the biggest legends from the history of the Leafs organization.


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