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Why Vince Wilfork tackles diabetes – it’s a family matter

09.23.11 at 10:15 am ET
By

FOXBORO — Say this for Vince Wilfork, he is one passionate football player, on and off the field.

And when it comes to a cause near and dear to his heart, the Pro Bowl nose tackle pursues it just as hard as he does an oncoming blocker or runner through the line of scrimmage.

Vince Wilfork’s foundation main purpose is to raise money for research and awareness to fight diabetes. His passion for this comes from a close family tie to the disease.

“My relationship with diabetes comes from growing up in my household with my father just being ill for 13, 14, 15 years,” Wilfork said on Thursday. “As a kid, I’m nine, 10 years old at the time, seeing my father go through what he had to go through, give him shots at times, he was so weak.

“We had to bathe him, had to take him to restroom. There was a lot going on that my brother and I had to deal with. So, that’s why this is real close and dear to my heart. I know how this can affect a household because I was one of those people who had to deal with it.”

It’s because of awareness and attention to detail that Wilfork himself has been able to avoid the disease.

“Luckily, God blessed me to be a healthy young man, blessed my family to be healthy but everybody is not able. That’s why it’s very close and dear to my heart to actually come and bring more awareness, to raise money to try and find and fight and tackle this disease. It affects us more than we think.

“One thing that kills me the most is when I see a 4-year old with Juvenile Diabetes,” he said. “I know a lot of people probably have friends and family members that are cancer patients, they’€™re beating [it] ‘€“ I put it right up there with cancer. Every year I throw my draft day fundraiser to raise money for diabetes. There’€™s not one year that comes and goes that I don’€™t get new people either showing up to my doorstep or showing up to the fundraiser just telling me stories about how they are affected by this disease.”

The Vince Wilfork Foundation is working with the world renown Joslin Diabetes Center and EMD Millipore to raise money throughout the 2011 Patriots season. It began last week with the home game against the Chargers and will continue through New Year’s Day when the Pats host the Bills.

“Through the years, we’€™ve raised a lot of good money,” he said. “Last year, I think we raised over $100,000, so it’€™s growing. One thing I want to do is to get my fans and my team involved with this. Everybody knows playing football is not just one individual, so I think that’€™s where the fans and friends can play a huge part in this. We need a team effort just like I need a team effort on Sundays. It’€™s going to take a team effort. We have the greatest fans. I can’€™t tell you ‘€“ I’€™m happy to be where I’€™m at with the fans and with the team I have.

The “Joslin Diabetes Center’s High Hopes Fund” even added $750 for his interception on Sunday.

“From the organization down to the teammates down to the fans, we [are] one classy organization and one classy fan base,” Wilfork said. “You guys really pull through for us at times. This is going to be one of the times that I’€™m going to ask for help. I’€™m doing it, my wife is doing it, I have friends doing it, my brother is doing it ‘€“ it’€™s a lot of people. We’€™re involved also. It’€™s not that I’€™m just asking everybody else for money; I’€™m actually putting money up myself.

“There’€™s where we’€™re at with this. Once again, like I said I want to thank EMD Millipore and Joslin for getting me on the team and hopefully we can be successful with this and hopefully I can report back to you guys how well we’€™re doing with it. It’€™s going to be something fun. It makes me more excited now to go out and make tackles for a cause. That just adds one more element to my game that makes me play even harder now. That’€™s where we’€™re at with that.”

His final message: If you have any doubts, get tested.

“It’€™s very important, especially as an African-American,” he said. “But you know what, it’€™s not just African-Americans. Like I said, every year it’€™s someone coming to my doorstep. The one thing that kills me the most, when I get a four-year-old or five-year-old kid with juvenile diabetes that eats me up. Because the first thing I do ‘€“ I have three kids and they’€™re healthy. I have a two-year old, an eight-year old and a 14-year old [Thursday] and they’€™re healthy and I just thank God for that. It’€™s very, very important; just go get tested.

“I tell my teammates the same thing. Just knowing what it can do to a household and you can go all your life without knowing. It’€™s an unknown. You get a little finger cut and you have to get stitched up and they run blood work and all the sudden they find out you’€™re diabetic. That’€™s not easy. We try to push people to go when they’€™re actually feeling good, before it’€™s too late. That’€™s one thing I’€™ll continue to push. I tell guys every time I see them, ‘€˜Hey go get tested. Even if you think you’€™re okay, still just go get tested to make sure you’€™re healthy.’€™”

Read More: diabetes, EMD Millipore, Joslin Diabetes Center, New England Patriots
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