EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 27, 2013

Patriots' star, U.S. senator team up to fight diabetes

Wilfork, Shaheen team up to fight diabetes

DERRY — Twins Ryan and Brad Goodwin have something in common with football star Vince Wilfork and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.: diabetes.

The eighth-graders spent time yesterday with the New England Patriots’ All-Pro defensive lineman and Shaheen.

The unusual tag team regularly pairs up to support diabetes research and education. They were at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School for Diabetes Alert Day, a one-day call for people to learn more about the disease and its risks.

The eighth-graders have Type I diabetes. So, too, does Shaheen’s granddaughter Elle, who accompanied her yesterday. Wilfork’s father David died from the disease in 2002 at age 48.

The gym was rocking yesterday before Wilfork and Shaheen arrived. Many of Hood’s 750 students sported Patriots’ jerseys and helmets. They stomped and clapped in anticipation.

But the program wasn’t about football or government; it was about a disease some 26 million Americans struggle with every day.

Wilfork quieted the crowd with childhood memories of his father’s illness.

“I was only 6 or 7 years old, and I didn’t know how bad it was or what it meant,” Wilfork said. “I remember my dad having to be carried to the restroom or bathed or fed or given insulin. I started to see the effects (diabetes) had on my family.”

Wilfork said he couldn’t go out to play much when he was young because his father needed care and his mother was working to support the family.

Losing his father made him more aware of diabetes and what it can do to a family, he said.

“He was my best friend and taught me everything I know,” Wilfork said of his father. “I didn’t have anyone to come explain to me about diabetes.”

He and Shaheen want to change that.

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