The Iron Andy Foundation exists to help people of all ages dealing with diabetes and other chronic illness by providing them with the inspiration and resources to achieve their life goals. Founder and spokesperson, Andy Holden shares his insights on the Foundation and its work with the readers of LoveToKnow Charity in this exclusive interview.
Interview With Andy Holder of Iron Andy
What inspired you to form the Iron Andy Foundation?
As the National Spokesperson for Good Neighbor Pharmacy for the past three years I have had the opportunity to inspire a great many people. I have devoted my life to showing people with diabetes that with a positive attitude and a "can't stop, won't stop" mentality there is absolutely no limits to what you can achieve in life. In speaking with children who have diabetes and hearing from their parents about the real challenges they face every day, I came to realize that sometimes inspiration is not enough. As healthcare costs continue to rise, people are finding they can't afford the support, supplies and medications necessary to manage their health challenges. So I decided to capitalize on the national exposure I am receiving and create a foundation whose mission is to provide inspiration, resources and assistance to individuals and families coping with the daily challenges of a chronic disease.
What has been your biggest challenge?
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four years ago at the age of 36, I was confused, scared and angry. But I knew I couldn't control the fact that I now had this disease and knew there would be a lot about the rest of my life that would be out of my control to some degree.
I also knew the one thing I had complete control of was my attitude. So despite the fact that I had never done a triathlon before and I didn't know how to swim, I decided to take on the Ironman triathlon to show my two young sons that this disease was not going to limit my life.
I have devoted my life to racing in half Ironman and Ironman triathlons, the biggest challenge I face is managing my blood sugar with the rigorous training schedule I now have. I also have to balance a family life, a demanding travel schedule and now running a foundation. But one of the mantra's I have adopted is "if it were easy, no one would care and no one would be inspired!" As hard as it is, I know I can't stop.
Do you have any stories about people you have inspired? Who stands out?
I have many stories about people whose lives I have been able to impact in a positive way. Two that stand out are Drake who is a young boy I met a few years ago from the Nashville area of Tennessee. Drake is living without limits and is accomplishing great things in the face of his disease.He frequently rallies his school to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and even won an essay contest that sent him to Washington as a junior lobbyist. Drake is an athlete and has had the opportunity to meet a number of professional athletes who also have diabetes. After meeting me he was interviewed by a local newspaper in which he said that his "new hero" was Iron Andy.
Another family I like to talk about is a boy named Devin and his mom Lisa. Devin, like Drake is not letting diabetes slow him down. In fact at the young age of 14 he has already completed 14 triathlons and this year will be racing on a number of Junior National teams.
This is exactly why I do what I do: to inspire children and to bring hope to parents. I am a parent and I know how hard that job is, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be to have a child with diabetes. I am lucky; I was diagnosed later in life and didn't have to deal with this disease growing up. So I am turning that luck into an opportunity to help others.
How is the Foundation funded?
Right now we have received some corporate donations and a few private ones. Now that the website is up and running, people can make donations on-line. I am also trying to find corporate sponsors and to build out Team Iron Andy - that will have people racing in endurance events all across the country and raising money for the Foundation. The money we raise will send a child to diabetes camp, pay for an insulin pump and many other things that will help people manage their disease and live a healthier, happier life.
What challenges are there for an athlete living with diabetes?
There is nothing more important for an endurance athlete than nutrition during training and especially on race day. You can be the top-trained athlete in the world with diligent preparation for a race, but if you miss your nutrition plan even by the slightest margin your day could be over. For someone who has type 1 diabetes, whose body doesn't regulate blood sugar on its own, this adds an extra level of difficulty. There is no "how to" manual for any of this and the disease is different for everyone, so managing type 1 diabetes as a triathlete has been extremely challenging. But as I said before, "if it were easy, no one would care and no one would be inspired!"
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LoveToKnow would like to thank Andy Holder for sharing his story and giving us insight on living with a chronic illness. We wish him and the Iron Andy Foundation continued success.