The message from the Northwest Company is clear: if you walk enough and eat right, nothing can stop you, not even diabetes!

For the fifth consecutive year, Team Diabetes walked to raise awareness of the debilitating disease on December 11 in Hawaii.

Five members of northern communities joined six employees from North West’s Northern and Giant Tiger stores this year to form the biggest team yet.

Unfortunately, weather and illness prevented three of the team members from actually walking in the marathon.

Ronnie Sealhunter participated in a different kind of marathon in 2003 to raise funds for a new Sports complex in Chisasibi. He walked 1,100 kilometres from Rouyn-Noranda to Chisasibi and was chosen because of the dedication he demonstrated to a good cause.

“I was very excited,” he said. “It was hard, but it was a great experience.”

Sealhunter was also walking for his grandmother who passed away from diabetes in September.

“I was emotional once it was all over,” he said. “I thought of my grandmother.”

Sealhunter said he trained in the bush by walking long distances in snowshoes. He also increased the time he spent walking around the community.

“You need to train a lot for it. It’s not for everybody.”

Diabetes rates amongst Aboriginals are three to five times higher than in the general population. The end of a nomadic lifestyle while continuing to eat fatty foods has increased the weight of some northern Native populations and has led directly to the increase in diabetes.

Elma Adie from Saskatchewan was emotional after completing the marathon. “This marathon has changed many things for me. It was an experience of a lifetime. If I could walk another 26 miles to save a life, I would.”

Over the last five years, the North West Company has raised over $500,000 for diabetes research. To show your support, the North West Company would like to encourage individuals to head to a Northern Store and purchase a $2 snowman. All of the proceeds will go directly to Team Diabetes.

The company also does fund-raising from within and collects further monies from their coin box program. So far this year, they’ve raised $150,000 and will continue to push for more in the coming years.