Until last December, the furthest Shirley Chiskamush had traveled had been to Montreal. But to join the fight against diabetes, the 35-year-old Chisasibi woman flew all the way to Hawaii to participate in the Honolulu Marathon to raise money for diabetes research.

“I felt very happy [to be a part of it],” Chiskamush told the Nation. “It was different than what I thought it’d be, I thought it’d be hotter, but it wasn’t that bad. I was so excited, I got to see so many different places, and I didn’t even realize that in the end, it lasted eight hours. Time went by thanks to the beautiful view I had during the walk, it was a very good experience for me.”

Thirty-six people applied to run in the marathon, and Chiskamush was one of six chosen. Those taking part in the marathon, either running or walking, were Glen Johnston and his son Tomassie of Igloolik, Nunavut, Donna Young and team captain Paul Champagne from Winnipeg Dora Bland from God’s Narrows, Manitoba and Chisasibi’s very own Shirley Chiskamush. The team was selected from across the Company’s operations in Canada. She works as an office supervisor at the Northern in Chisasibi.

Honolulu’s marathon is the fourth largest in the world and boasts over 22,000 participants. The length of the marathon is 42 kilometres.

Diabetes has affected Chiskamush personally; her mom is suffering from type A diabetes. Her brother-in-law also has diabetes. “It really changes ones lifestyle, having to watch what you eat, and having to use needles,” she says. “It also affects the people in the family who don’t have diabetes. It affects everyone.”

Chiskamush warns that the disease is something people of all ages need to prevent. She has a friend who has diabetes, and he’s in his mid-20s.

Luckily, she does not have diabetes, and some of the things she is doing to prevent it is “exercising daily and eating healthy.” Chiskamush says she used to eat chips and pop, but when she started to train, she began eating more fruit and less greasy foods. It helped her immensely.

The North West Company (NWC), which runs the Northern stores in 162 northern communities, has played a big part in fighting this debilitating disease. As previously reported in the Nation, the NWC had been selling paper snowmen for $2 each during the holiday season. All of the money raised went towards diabetes research. They also entered into the December 14 Honolulu marathon for the same cause. This was the third year in a row that a team representing the North West Company had entered this prestigious event. The first year saw Edward Kennedy, president and CEO of the NWC run in the marathon.

The money raised through the selling of the snowmen, the marathon, plus the collection boxes in each store, along with voluntary payroll deductions-contributions from the staff, bumped this year’s total to $125,000. This number was up from the $86,000 that was raised during the same period last year. The company also matched the contributions that the staff gave to the marathon, as well as the money generated by the donation boxes, 50 cents on the dollar.

In order to run in the marathon, NWC requires individuals to raise $ 1,500 each, or 25 per cent of the $6,000 entry fee. NWC covers the rest. She said she received a lot of support from different individuals and companies within her community. Other ways of raising money, such as penny socials helped quite a bit. In the end, Shirley Chiskamush raised almost $5,000.

The Nation spoke with Jim Deyell, director of public affairs for NWC. “We started the marathon at 3:15 in the morning which was rather chilly. Shirley walked the marathon and finished in just over eight hours, which is a fair average. It equals out to 5K an hour,” Deyell said.

“We started off [raising money to fight diabetes] eight or nine years ago with only the collection boxes at first. Then three years ago, I approached the president of NWC to run in the marathon, and we’ve been going strong ever since.”

Deyell also said that the NWC is very pleased with the support they received from other northern companies. ‘We’ve had a lot of help from Air Creebec, who flew Shirley and her friend out to Montreal at no cost. We also had great help from Air Inuit, again for flying our staff out. We also got exceptional help from First Air, who was flying people out from the arctic.”

In order to get the participants ready, NWC, thanks to First Air, flew in a mobile jogging track for each entrant. These tracks were so well received by the staff in Igloolik; they didn’t want to let go of them once the marathon runners were through with them.

Other ways in which NWC is trying to fight diabetes is through healthy eating. They have put labels on most food in their store, telling the consumer just how healthy it is. The program is not new, having been around “at least 15 years,” according to Deyell. The company has also developed, along with Diabetes Canada, a backpack filled with healthy teaching aids. These include games, books on cooking and stories – stuff that, according to Deyell, “is focused towards the youth, the 5-to-8-year-old group.”

The Nation would like to challenge all individuals or companies in Eeyou Istchee to meet or exceed our donation of $50 towards the Canadian Diabetes Foundation in fighting this horrible disease. For further information, or to make a donation, contact:

Canadian Diabetes Association National Office 800-15 Toronto Street Toronto ON M5C 2E3