Charlie Kimball

Monte Ryan, left along with his wife, Gail and daughter Allison, talk with IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball at Monday’s World Diabetes Day event held at Allsteel in Muscatine. Kimball is the first licensed driver with diabetes in the history of IndyCar. The event was organized by the Muscatine Diabetes Walk Project in conjunction with Blue Zones Project Muscatine and the Muscatine Hy-Vee Food Store.

BETH VAN ZANDT/MUSCATINE JOURNAL

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Charlie Kimball, the first licensed driver with diabetes in the history of IndyCar, spoke to Muscatine residents about his life with Type 1 diabetes on Monday.

World Diabetes Day is Monday, Nov. 14, and Novo Nordisk sponsored Kimball to speak about how he has managed his diabetes while continuing to live his dream.

Kimball was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, and said although it has not always been easy he has managed to incorporate management strategies into his active lifestyle.

The main point he hopes those who listen to him speak will walk away remembering, is "You can still live your dreams," Kimball said.

"And yeah, it's not easy," he added. "There are times when it's very very hard, but at the same time it can still be extremely rewarding to achieve those goals and overcome the challenge of diabetes."

As he spoke to the crowd of people who attended the free event at Allsteel, Kimball recalled a time when he realized what his racing could mean to others with diabetes. 

He had a disappointing race day, he said, when a child approached him. Instead of asking Kimball about why he had not done better or won the race, he asked how his blood sugar was.

"He didn't care if I was first or 21st, just the fact that I was out there competing was a victory for him," Kimball said.

Because his life with diabetes requires keeping track of insulin and blood sugar and how much food Kimball eats or exercise he has, he said that struggle has brought him positive experiences as well as negative.

"Having diabetes has really added balance to my life," he said.

Kimball said much of his management focuses on before the race, eating properly and preparing his body with insulin before dealing with the hot car, adrenaline, and exercise while driving at high speeds.

He also is prepared within the car, and said he has the option of drinking orange juice rather than water if his blood sugar becomes low. Next to his gauges, telling him the speed and allowing him to monitor the car's health, he can also see his blood sugar levels.

Allison Ryan, a senior at Muscatine High School, attended the event with her family. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January of 2016.

Listening to Kimball talk was encouraging, her mom Gail Ryan said.

"I think it's cool to hear somebody who's been successful and been able to do what they love to do no matter what," Gail said.

Allison said she could identify with much of the shock and difficulty Kimball expressed when he told his story, but she plans to pursue her dream: elementary education.

"It's definitely cool to see someone like that," she said.

The event was organized by the Muscatine Diabetes Walk Project in conjunction with Blue Zones Project Muscatine and the Muscatine Hy-Vee Food Store.

The Muscatine Diabetes Walk Project, a charitable fund under the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, works to support, empower and encourage Muscatine County area residents living with diabetes to live long, healthy, happy, and productive lives.

Kim Seligman, the community lead for the Muscatine Diabetes Walk Project, said she hopes hearing Kimball speak will encourage others with diabetes to pursue their dreams, and to pass that inspiration on to others.

"I want them to be empowered, and to learn their story is just as important," she said.

For more information, contact Seligman at 563-260-2763 or email MuscatineDiabetesWalk@gmail.com.

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