Riding On Insulin and the joy of setting kids with D free

March 15, 2012By 11 Comments

A note to friends and family and readers in general who have been to ROI — I hope you add your thoughts to the comment section so more folks can learn all about ROI!

Okay this is going to sound so very selfish, but one of the first things I wailed at Lauren’s endocrinologist at the hospital was this:

“We’re never going to be able to go skiing again! I’m going to have to quit my job!”

I had worked for years as a crime reporter. But only months before Lauren’s diagnosis I has scored my dream job, the one I announced I’d one day have on fifth grade career day (to which the teacher said: “Moira. You need to set more realistic goals. I mean, a ski writer?” but I digress.) Yep, it was going to be my first winter of living the dream: traveling to ski resorts all over and the writing about them. My kids were little so I fully planned on taking them along.

And now, I felt like all was lost.

But our endo, the fabulous Dr. Dude, set me straight.

“Moira: You will go skiing. Lauren will go skiing. You will travel without her; you will travel with her. We are going to help you make it happen. Because to do anything less would be unfair to Lauren. Do you really want her growing up thinking she robbed you of your dreams? I don’t think so.”

All this came rushing back to me last weekend. You see, I spend the weekend hanging out at the Riding On Insulin Camp, brainchild of world-class snowboarder and wicked-cool person with Type 1 Diabetes Sean Busby (and his amazing wife Mollie). I’d read a lot and heard a lot about the camp and was excited to see how it all worked.

So, with Lauren (who was home for spring break) and two of her sorority sisters (who came home for spring  break with her), I headed out and took it in.

Saturday morning the ROI room at Wachusett Mountain was packed – full of excited kids and kind of nervous parents. Parents were talking back and forth: asking one another things like “Are you nervous with them going out without you?” and “Will you go to the parent learning session or follow your child around?”Image

Sean made it clear what he hoped they’d all do: Let the kids feel what it’s like to be on the snow, on the mountain, free from parent intervention, and perfectly safe.

You see, each child, whether on snowboard or skis, was assigned to a group at their ability level, and each group had a coach assigned to them. Most of the coaches were either medical professionals or folks with Type 1 themselves or with a child with Type 1. After the group blood check, each child would be in the hands of the coaches, not their parents.

For some of them, it would be their very first time being so very active without mom and dad along.

The kids headed out, with Sean moving from group to group. The parents, slowly realized they had to take the giant leap and let their kids go. They headed inside for an hour and a half q and a with my daughter and other young woman with diabetes, Lindsay Felix. Lindsay and Lauren were incredible. They spoke openly and honestly about all kinds of things, and gave advice the parents drank in. I kind of felt bad for the very few parents who did not come in and take that in. It was a great session.

Lunchtime came and all the kids came back in to dine together. Mom and Dad studied numbers, but I could see the kids were itching to get back out on the snow.

I know a big reason is riding and skiing are just plain fun. But I cannot help but think another reason is each run, these kids were learning an amazing lesson: Diabetes cannot stop you. In any way.Image

Sean gave a moving speech at dinnertime and shared how he manages to travel the world and ride crazy mountains, all with diabetes along. And I had to think those kids walked off with way more than a cool certificate signed by Sean and Mollie.

They walked off with confidence. They headed home with the knowledge that they can reach for mountaintops and go for high speed and live a crazy, interesting and amazing life, all with diabetes along.

I remember my first ski trip with Lauren. It was two months after he diagnosis and I decided to take her alone for a weekend trip I had to make so I could work out the kinks of skiing on insulin. I had called the ski school ahead of time. Since we’d always put her in ski school, I wanted her experience to be the same (and this was in the days of regular and nph and exact meal times).

I dropped her off at ski school, took a deep breath, and headed off to do my ski work all day (yes. It is cool that a chairlift is my office. But again I digress.)

Late in the day, having not been beckoned by the ski school, I headed to pick her up. A soft, fluffy snow was falling. My little daughter, so new to diabetes and life with it, ran out the door, flung her hands in the air and screamed, with glee:

“Kids with diabetes CAN have fun!!!”

And that’s the best lesson of all. I know in my heart every single kid who has attended Riding On Insulin will completely agree. Because when it comes down to it, Sean Busby is sending the same message Dr. Dude gave me back in the hospital so long ago: Don’t let your Mom or Dad fears hold your child back from going big in life.  I salute those parents for letting their children just go. It’s the bravest, most selfless thing a parent can do.Image




Post note: shortly after I posted this blog I got an email from Dr. Dude himself — at that exact moment he was on a chairlift in Utah — with a friend who is an adult with Type 1. What are the chances??? Here they are:


Dr. Dude and friend

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Comments (11)

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  1. Kristin says:

    Awesome post! Modern advances (CGMs and pumps) are a blessing but do in some ways make us current parents more jumpy, I think – the constant stream of data gives you the illusion that you can and should be controlling things at all times. I love hearing from parents whose kids are older now (and I loved reading in “Not Dead Yet”) that kids can in fact do things on their own and keep being just kids. Thanks for the dose of inspiration. :)

  2. Dana says:

    We did this camp at Mt. Hood in Oregon. My daughter didn’t ski but volunteered for the event. I was so impressed with Mollie, Sean, the idea, the motivation and at the end of the day was moved to have seen and been with all those kids, many of whom were trying skiing/boarding for the first time.

  3. Katie says:


    So great. I just posted photos of my son’s snow camping trip with the Sierra Club Wilderness Training Course. He started backpacking with diabetes when he was 11 or 12, and went to diabetes camp in the mountains every summer, including one where they went on a week long backpacking trip, above 7500 feet. YES. Life doesn’t end.

    Thanks Moira, for your common sense and honesty.

  4. Mollie Busby says:

    MOIRA: This is beautiful… just like your last article. You are such a talented writer. I’m off to promote this on the ROI FB… and my own :-) Thank you for being there! (And Lauren too!) BTW-what sorority is she in? I’m a Delta Gamma alumna of UW-Madison

    • moiracmcc says:

      I was thinking after I posted this too …. all my life — for as long as I can even remember, all I ever needed to get things “Right” in my head and my heart was a day on the slopes. There is something about skiing and riding — the air, the scenery, the feeling of soaring, how you can be with a big group but still be in your own head .. that’s just so soothing. I think ALL kids with D should be “prescribed” skiing and riding! OH HEY!! Maybe you should have an ROI For ADULTS with Type 1. OMG

  5. Not just skiing, it is anything. One of the most important lessons I learned from my endo early on was that my daughter would be “normal”. Of the millions of questions I had, it was the first one I asked, “Will my daughter be normal” and the answer I received was “Do you want her to be normal?.” When I replied yes, he responded then she will be. That was 12 years ago, and today, she is likely the most “normal” 13 year old around…sometimes I wish she wasn’t so “normal” : )

  6. Kelly says:

    OMG – so much fun! Our whole family of five attended the East Coast ROI. We are already avid skiers, so our oldest child tried snowboarding for the first time and my husband volunteered as an “on-snow coach”, As for our son with Type 1, his big thrill was to meet and ski with Sean Busby! Our middle son got to ski as well for the day and could see that there are so many kids out there besides his brother dealing with this disease. I skipped skiing to attend a greatly informative and eye-opening discussion with 2 young adults with Type 1, and get a glimpse of things yet to come in my son’s life – especially college life (though he’s only 7!) And the wrap-up at the end of the day, hearing about all the things Sean has accomplished, was so inspiring for all of these kids to hear (as well as seeing all the great photos of the amazing places Sean has been snowboarding). His wife Mollie, was tireless in all her efforts to keep everything coordinated – what a giving and inspirational couple. I highly recommend anyone dealing with a diabetic child to attend an ROI in the future if they can. It is a day they will remember forever.

  7. Kristen says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a few months now. I learn something new and inspiring with every post. My son is 10 years old and was just diagnosed with T1D the past July. We live in Minnesota and my son’s 5th grade class just went on a skiing field trip. This was my son’s first experience at skiing and he absolutely loved it. We will definitely try to get him registered for this Riding on Insulin camp. Thanks for sharing.

  8. shannon says:

    what an amazing post and an awesome postscript! thanks so much for sharing, your memories and photos, they are so inspirational! i feel so lucky that my daughter was diagnosed during a time in history when so much is available to her in the way of support and activities like this! :)

  9. Ivy says:

    Can’t wait for ~K (8 years old) to join Riding on Insulin. Was hoping we could get Sean and Mollie to come to Japan to conduct a camp but it never materialized. Yes, our kids with Type 1 can do anything!

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