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Posted April 22, 2013
Sam Fuld Inspires Kids and Families at the All Children's Diabetes Day

Sam Fuld of the Tampa Bay Rays at ACH Diabetes Day
Sam Fuld of the Tampa Bay Rays signs autographs at the ACH Diabetes Family Day
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As a ballplayer, Sam Fuld isn't known for his power. But as a source of hope and inspiration for kids with type 1 diabetes and their families, he hit another home run Saturday.

The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder was the keynote speaker for the second straight year at the All Children's Hospital Diabetes Family Day and gave a lively and insightful presentation on his life with type 1 diabetes. More than 100 people packed the conference hall in the Outpatient Care Center to listen to Fuld's message and insights, then take part in an informative question-and-answer session that covered a wide range of topics about managing the condition.

In addition to Fuld's showcase appearance, the event featured expert presentations on nutrition, physical activity and mental health as well as tables of vendor displays of the latest diabetes care technology and management tools. But the big hit was "Super Sam," who took time to appear in the midst of a busy weekend highlighted by Tampa Bay's three-game sweep of the visiting Oakland Athletics.

"I was 10 years old when I was diagnosed and I had the normal symptoms of the diabetic who didn't know they were diabetic - thirsty all the time, going to the bathroom all the time, and I lost about 10 pounds, which at the age of 10 is a little odd," he told the crowd.

Fuld went on discuss his experience growing up with diabetes and how he became self-sufficient at managing his own care fairly quickly. "I was injecting myself and poking my finger all by myself," he explained. "... I was very lucky to have a lot of positive support from everybody: doctors, parents, friends. And I just sort of had a positive attitude with it from the day I was diagnosed.

"I had no idea what I was getting into and I was scared. I know my parents were twice as scared as I was. But I figured there's nothing I can do about it. It's not going away ... so I might as well make the most of it. And I've carried that attitude all through my life. If there's anything you all can learn, it's to just stay positive."

"I would say that the event was a great success," said Dr. Suzanne Jackman, who gave a presentation on type 1 diabetes and physical activity. "It was great to see members of the diabetes community in the Tampa Bay area - from parents to kids to grandparents as well as doctors, nurses and nutritionists - all coming together to learn more about type 1 diabetes, support each other and remain active in the diabetes community."

As for Fuld's presence, Dr. Jackman added, "Sam is inspirational for the kids - to really see someone who has been very successful at keeping a level head, and keeping things in perspective and being able to excel with type 1 diabetes. I'd say Sam has such a positive and can-do attitude and provides such positive energy to the kids."

Following Fuld's talk and Q&A, Jill Dewhurst of Brandon sat in the room with her two young sons, feeling uplifted by Fuld's words and optimistic approach to dealing with diabetes - which now includes an annual type 1 diabetes sports camp held at the University of South Florida each February.

His presentation hit home for a reason: She and her husband Robert have a 4-year-old son, Matthew, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on April 1. Their other son, 6-year-old Will, is a leukemia patient at ACH who is doing well and almost done with his chemotherapy.

Both boys are Rays fans and Matthew came to the event wearing his blue "Super Sam" cape. They were excited to have a chance to pose for a photo with Fuld before he spoke.

"Matthew was really looking forward to meeting Super Sam," Jill said. "He's been really excited about that ever since he learned that Sam was diabetic, too. He's such a good role model for Matthew to identify with."

Fuld made a strong impression Saturday on Jill as well: "He's such a positive influence and advocate - with a message that 'diabetes hasn't ruined my life. I'm still doing all the things that I love to do.' I absolutely feel a sense of hope coming out of this - and a sense that you don't have to hold back from what you want to do in life, just because you have a diagnosis."

 Now that's powerful.