By Tim Eberly
A doctor at the Health Center on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation spread the word about the marathon in December.
The woman, who has since moved to Wyoming, told physical therapist Jerad Gillen about the annual race held in Keauhou-Kona, Hawaii. She also called the local American Diabetes Chapter in Helena and asked a representative to speak at Rocky Boy.
"She was kind of pushing it," Gillen said. "She had talked about what a good thing it was to get involved in."
Darcy Weidman, district manager for the Helena-based ADA, conducted two meetings at Rocky Boy about the marathon, which the ADA has used to raise awareness about diabetes in Montana for the last two years.
Including Gillen, there are 11 Rocky Boy residents who have signed up to run or walk the ninth annual Kunitake Farms Kona Marathon in West Hawaii. They each provided $50 from their own pockets, and don't seem to be intimidated by the daunting task of raising $4,800 each in order to attend.
Now that the doctor is working in a neighboring state, Gillen has taken over as the advocate for marathon and diabetes awareness. Gillen is not only developing training schedules for his fellow runners, but he is organizing several fund-raisers to make the trip a reality.
"We kind of started late, so we're a little behind on the money," Gillen said today.
Approximately 2,000 runners will participate in the marathon on June 23. The Rocky Boy participants will be part of Montana Team Diabetes, which includes smaller groups from Kalispell, Butte and Missoula.
Of the 4,000 Rocky Boy residents treated at the Health Center, about 17 percent are diabetic.
"In the Native American culture, diabetes is an epidemic," Weidman said.
The deadline for fund raising is May 23, so Gillen and his team have some work ahead of them. For the most part, participants are raising money independently. They're writing letters to friends and family, asking for financial support.
But some larger, group fund-raisers are in the works. Gillen is working on organizing a pee-wee basketball tournament, where the marathon hopefuls would sell concessions. A 5K run in Beaver Creek Park has been tentatively scheduled for May 12. Not to mention the fact that they've already held a couple of raffles, a 50/50 raffle and a Easter Basket raffle.
Gillen is also considering selling stuffed animals Diabetes Bears that he can get on the Internet.
"That's a lot of money, so we may not reach the goal of everybody going," Gillen said. "But we can at least reach the goal of getting some of our people to go."
If the total goal of more than $50,000 is not reached, Gillen said, Rocky Boy will only send the people who were most diligent in working toward their goal.
For every dollar raised, at least 70 cents goes to research for diabetes. Rocky Boy representatives asked that some of the money they raise for the marathon be earmarked for Native Americans.
Weidman granted the request.
To make a contribution, sends checks to Jerad Gillen, payable to American Diabetes Association, at the Rocky Boy Health Board, RR1 Box 664, Box Elder, MT, 59521. For more information, call 395-4486.