Brother and Sister Climb Mountains for a Cure

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Haley and Ethan Maurice have a lofty goal. On July 16 they will embark on a three-week hike from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. The 221-mile trek will take them on the John Muir Trail from Yosemite National Park to the highest peak in the continental United States. The siblings will backpack by themselves with no outside assistance other than resupply points along the trail. They’re calling it “Summit Diabetes” and they plan to raise money for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research.

The Maurice family’s unexpected journey began eight years ago while on vacation in California. “I remember Haley had barely any energy at the beach and seemingly constantly had to go to the bathroom. On the six-hour drive back to Phoenix we must have stopped the car ten times so Haley could use the bathroom,” Ethan, 22, recalls. As soon as they returned home, Haley visited the doctor and the family received a phone call that night with alarming test results. They were told to rush Haley to the hospital. “I had no idea what was going on or why I was going to the hospital,” Haley, 15, says, “and we were escorted immediately past all of the people waiting in the emergency room. My blood sugar was almost 800. I spent three days in the hospital where I grew to love cottage cheese, considering that it was the only food on the menu that I could eat without having the nurse come to give me an ever-so-dreaded shot. Overall, it was the most frightening experience I’ve ever had.”

Fundraising is deep-rooted in the Maurice family. Since Haley’s diagnosis, they have banded together as a Walk team (Haley’s Comets has raised thousands of dollars over the years), served as Walk family team coaches, participated in the Promise to Remember Me Campaign to ask congress for T1D funding, engaged their schools in fundraising activities and attended various JDRF galas, always promoting the JDRF mission to find a cure for T1D.

Adventure and endurance are also second nature to the Maurice kids, and it makes sense that this is how they fundraise. Last summer, Ethan and his brother Reid biked 4,500 miles across the United States to raise over $96,000 for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. So when Ethan mentioned that he wanted to hike the John Muir Trail, Haley immediately asked if she could come along and if they could do it for Team JDRF.

The hike is also meant to encourage others living with T1D. Haley wants people to know that while T1D is a very complicated disease with potentially life-threatening complications, one can accomplish amazing feats. “The title is Summit Diabetes, as in summiting the obstacles of living with this disease and going on to live your dreams, as in not letting the highs and lows, whether speaking of elevation or blood sugar, stop you,” she says.

Still, a cure is the ultimate goal for Haley, Ethan and the entire Maurice family. For Haley, a cure would mean a long-awaited relief for herself and the millions of others who live with T1D.

“Relief from damaging highs, dauntingly scary lows, the yearly 3,000 finger pricks, pump and CGM site changes, the frustrations of attempting to keep my blood sugar in a safe range, and so much more,” she says. “Relief from the stress of knowing that I could go blind, lose a limb, or die from heart disease or kidney failure if my blood sugars are too high. Relief from worry that someday my children may live with this disease. And, relief for my parents who I know worry about me day and night.”