Healthy Abbotsford Blog

Local Health Champion Runs for Her Family and to Cure Diabetes

Vanessa Kuipers and her Kids

Vanessa Kuipers with her kids Lexie and Owen at the end of the BMO Half Marathon in October 2011


Last week I had the pleasure to speak to an amazing health champion in Abbotsford, Vanessa Kuipers. A teacher and mother of two, Vanessa is part of Team Diabetes, a program of the Canadian Diabetes Association whose goal is to find a cure for diabetes and raise awareness of the condition.

In January of 2003, Vanessa’s family was devastated when her daughter was diagnosed in kindergarten with type-1 diabetes. After both her children suffered from the flu in late 2002, unlike her brother, Lexie just couldn’t seem to kick the bug. She suffered from many flu-like symptoms and had lost a considerable amount of weight before diabetes was found to be the cause. She now requires regular injections of insulin and continual monitoring of blood sugar levels to keep her alive and well. While learning a new way of life in caring for her daughter, the family suffered another tragedy when Vanessa’s husband passed away after a prolonged sickness in 2009.

Driven by a passion to cure diabetes and to be there for her kids for many years, Vanessa joined Team Diabetes and is now a healthy role model for her kids, her students and her community.

In August 2010, Vanessa participated in her first big event, a 10 km run in Reykjavik, Iceland. By raising $6100, Team Diabetes covered the cost of travel, accommodation and the entry fee to bring Vanessa to Iceland.

On her own and sometimes through group runs with the Running Room, Vanessa built up her fitness in preparation for the run. On the big day she kept her inspiration close to her by laminating a picture of her kids and wearing it on her shoulder. “With 500 meters left in the run I looked at the picture and found the inspiration to finish”.

Since her first run, Vanessa has continued to run with Team Diabetes in various local events, including completing her first half marathon in Kelowna in 2011. Vanessa is currently fundraising to represent Team Diabetes in future events including a half marathon in Brazil. Vanessa runs, not to be fast, but to continue to be healthy and support a great cause.

As a teacher, Vanessa makes an effort to inspire her students to be active by sharing her running stories and turning any lesson into an active game. She even took her grade 9 English class outside and used activity to demonstrate grammar principals, aka “Grammar Bootcamp”, a lesson her old students still talk about today.

At the end of our chat, Vanessa made a deal with her daughter, now 14, to run/walk together in Kelowna next year.

If you would like to donate to help Vanessa fundraise for her next event, click here to visit her personal fundraising page.

To learn more about Team Diabetes and how to get involved click here.


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