Frustrated by the ever-increasing number of cases of diabetes and diabetes-related diseases in Eeyou Istchee, Joshua Iserhoff and Demerise Mayappo will be taking part in a special Canadian Diabetes Association fundraiser in Hawaii in August.

The two Crees will be representing Eeyou Istchee on the island of Kauai August 31. They each hope to raise up to $6100 to fund their participation in the event to help support diabetes research.

“This was really important for me to do because more and more of our youth are being diagnosed with diabetes every day,” said Iserhoff, the Youth Grand Chief. “Just the other day I was told about an 11-year-old getting diagnosed. A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers was diagnosed and then another good friend was diagnosed with a kidney disease. I have another friend who just had an operation and is now on dialysis; she is 20 years old and now has to live in the city for treatment. The list just keeps on growing.”

Mayappo, an employment officer at the Cree Nation Government, is participating because she and her family have been deeply affected by diabetes. Two years ago she was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic, which scared her as she had already witnessed her parents struggle with the disease.

“I lost my dad seven years ago to a blood infection. He had type-1 diabetes and had to take insulin daily. It’s very hard to cure diseases once you are already diabetic. It’s hard losing a loved one to diabetes. But this served as an eye-opener for me to take a better care of myself – to stay active and to watch what I eat,” said Mayappo. “I have lost many people to diabetes – my dad, uncles and friends. I’m doing my marathon for them and also for the people who are diabetic. I hope one of these days a cure will be found.”

As for Iserhoff, participating in this event has been part of an overall lifestyle change he started as a New Year’s resolution, committing to an ethic to walk his own talk and be an example as the YGC. This was prompted by a life-changing moment involving a friend.

“Last year when my friend Shirley (Matoush) was diagnosed (with a kidney disease called IgA nephropathy), I started to think about my eating habits. When she tearfully told me her story, it hit me hard. We had this moment when I realized that it wasn’t just her but this is happening everywhere and in every community. That night as I lay on my bed, I decided that I would walk the talk. I always told people not to eat junk food, but then I would eat it myself all of the time,” said Iserhoff.

Iserhoff has since lost about 25 pounds. Participating in this run is part of his walking-the-talk ethos. Like many, Iserhoff said he felt helpless and “crazy-mad” watching so many around him suffer from diabetes and this is one step to fight back.

“This money that I am raising is going to go to diabetes research, prevention and education. My hope and my wish is that every Cree takes this seriously because we now have 20-year-olds who are severely affected. This is no longer an Elder’s disease as it once was,” said Iserhoff.

To sponsor Iserhoff and Mayappo, go to: