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Riders pedal for diabetes awareness


Eric Seidle

Domie Aquino, left, of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation gets his tires aired up by Roger Gruber before participating in the Tour de Cure, a bike ride that helps raise money for diabetes research.

Bicyclists took a challenge to ride from Montana State University-Northern to Stone Child College as charity for diabetes programs in the reservation Wednesday.

The bicyclist met in a parking lot at MSU-Northern to prepare their bikes and listen to a traditional honor and memorial song for those who have fought and are fighting diabetes and those who have died from the disease.

Ruth Burleigh, the coordinator for the American Diabetic Association in Fort Belknap, spoke to the bicyclists before the ride.

"I am just so overwhelmed," Burleigh said. " ... This is really awesome to bring the two tribes together."

The Tour de Cure was a collaboration between Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, the first of its kind.

Burleigh said around 20 to 25 riders showed to take the trek. She said she was surprised to see so many people show up to the event.

"It wasn't just the numbers," Burleigh said. "It was the reasons they were riding that touched my heart."

She said many of the riders were there for people who were seriously ill, for family members, friends and children who suffer from diabetes, and because it was a good cause.

The bicyclists had the option of a 54- or 66-mile loop.

Christine Huston of Havre, before embarking on her ride, said she had never participated in a ride this long. Her record was 25 miles.

"I just thought I'd come out and see if I could finish it," she said.

Katrese and Timothy Hammond of Fort Belknap chose to split the 54-mile loop between them. After they completed the ride, they stopped at Henny Penny's, which was offering the riders free meals, to rest and eat.

"He did 29 miles and I did 25," Katrese Hammond said. "He did the hardest part."

This was Timothy's first ride, she said, but she recently rode a smaller Tour de Cure in Lodge Pole that was eight miles.

Burleigh said the difference between the Lodge Pole Tour de Cure and Wednesday's was that the Lodge Pole ride was a mountain bike ride.

"I went through it twice because I have two dads and they both have diabetes," Hammond said.

She has also ridden in Fort Belknap's annual bike ride of 34 miles from Hays to Harlem for four years.

"It was really difficult today," Hammond said.

She added that if anyone wants to try to take a ride this long, "maybe they should practice first.

"It makes it a lot easier," she said.

The loop took her and her husband around four hours to complete.

Registration to the event was $15 and went to fund the American Diabetes Association. Burleigh said the money is used mainly for scholarships for children with diabetes at the ADA Youth Camp, and the majority of the money raised stays in Montana.

The money is also used for supplies for the organization's wintertime family programs and the rest goes to pay for the T-shirts and research.

Burleigh gave a special thanks to Henny Penny's in Havre gave out 40 soups and salads to those participating or helping with the ride Wednesday and to Havre Bicycle Center for repairing kids' bikes.

"I also want to thank all the tribal and community business that gave us either in-kind or monetary donation so we could get this going," she added.

Burleigh said this is one of the only tribal-based Tour de Cures in the United States.

"This is really an awesome, proactive initiative between two reservations, two different tribes and the local Havre business," Burleigh said. " ... Diabetes doesn't care if you're Indian or you're white or you're black or Chinese. It will hit you."


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