Diagnosed at seven months old, Phil Southerland is now a seasoned veteran when it comes to living with diabetes. For him, it’s always been a part of his life, but never has diabetes controlled his life.
“Poor control in any aspect of life and things can go badly,” he explains. “I’ve seen lives improve significantly when people take control. That’s the key to living with diabetes.”
And it is what set Phil on his current path. In 2003 he befriended a man who wasn’t managing his diabetes, but rather letting it hinder his daily life. Phil worked with his new friend and inspired him to make some big changes.
“I helped a friend take control of his life, and now he can see his grandchildren grow up. Meeting and helping him was the point when my life changed.”
Phil realized that he wasn’t satisfied with simply living his life while others neglected to deal with and take control of their diabetes. The seeds were planted; Team Type 1 was born. Starting as means to motivate people with diabetes to take control via cycling, it has evolved into a global sport and philanthropic organization educating and empowering countless people on multiple continents. Since founding Team Type 1, the organization has won four Race Across America titles and holds the contest’s current record for fastest trans-continental crossing in a spectacular five days, nine hours and five minutes. But why stop there?
Team Type 1 is seeking a highly coveted spot in the 2012 Tour de France, and Phil has also started Team Type 2, tearing down the barriers and misconceptions about both forms of diabetes. Phil’s not done yet, however. He has also started a Team Type 1 Running Team to compete in the Run Across America, once again proving that people with diabetes can be some of the most impressive athletes on the planet.
Even with all these races across our country, Phil’s most amazing achievements are happening on another continent altogether: Africa. The inspiring athletes of Team Type 1 competed in the 2010 Tour of Rwanda, and brought along 35,000 test strips and 400 blood glucose meters for Rwandans struggling to take control of their diabetes.
“Rwanda is a beautiful country with wonderful people. Unfortunately, they have little or no access to glucose meters, test strips—things that we take for granted every day.”
Phil hopes to change all that. His efforts in Rwanda are not finished, his goal is to make a big impact on how diabetes is handled in the country. He is in the early stages of what he hopes will be a long-lasting and sustainable project that provides 75,000 Rwandan people with access to the necessary supplies to take control of diabetes in the next five to seven years. If his track record is any indication, winning this stage is only a matter of time.