Jack Stuart hasn't let his diabetes slow him down.
On Sunday morning, the 12-year-old met B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix for a game of basketball at an outdoor court in Coquitlam.
Along with playing basketball, soccer and hockey, Jack has also raised tens of thousands of dollars for juvenile diabetes research through his Jack of Hearts Foundation.
Mr. Dix, who is a Type 1 diabetic himself, took the opportunity to praise the youngster's efforts and also announce that an NDP government would extend coverage of the provincial insulin pump program to people ages 19 to 25, part of what Mr. Dix says is long-term strategy to deal with chronic illness.
Currently, people 18 and younger can get the pump covered by the government.
"That period [19 to 25] is also a difficult period for people with juvenile diabetes. They're often leaving home and having to make adjustments. It's also a period when people are in their lowest earning years and we thought it was important to extend the coverage," said Mr. Dix. "It's an affordable measure … It saves money down the road because it ensures significantly better control of blood sugar which is a big part of dealing with diabetes."
The pump allows an individual to control their insulin intake by pressing a button on a small machine. The machine, the size of a pager, administers the insulin through a plastic tube that is connected to an insertion site on the body. Mr. Dix said the pump can cost people upwards of $3,200 a year.
In 2008, the Liberal government first began covering the cost of the pump for people 18 and under. Mr. Dix says extended coverage, in the short-term, would cost taxpayers $1-million in its first year and an additional $2-million in its second year.
Jack demonstrated for reporters how the pump has made his life easier.
"Instead of taking shots every day that really hurt my arm, four times a day, I just punch in these buttons and it's as easy as that," he said, revealing the small device that was strapped to his belt. "When I was on the syringes, my parents, say I was having a sleep over, would have to do a shot in front of my friends. It hurt, I'd almost start crying. Now with this, I don't need any help."
Jack and Mr. Dix teamed up on Sunday to take on Coquitlam-Burke Mountain NDP Candidate Chris Wilson and an NDP staffer in the game of two-on-two hoops. With some nifty ball handling skills, Jack led the charge, feeding Mr. Dix some pretty passes and netting a couple points himself.
Jack was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes seven years ago. It was at his first Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation walk that he realized he wanted to get more involved.
"I wanted to make a difference and not stand on the sidelines and watch," he said.
So Jack started advocating. A family friend built a website. He started organizing barbeque fundraisers.
And last year, Jack's team for the walk had more than 100 people. He's raised over $100,000 dollars for diabetes research since starting his campaign.
"He's an amazing advocate," Mr. Dix said. "It's such an inspiration that someone dealing with a disease can also advocate for everyone else who has a disease, including me. It's a message to everyone who has juvenile diabetes that there are no limits."