Biking To Help Others

This story was published in the Saturday edition of the West Central Tribune’s Extra! It’s another example of someone bicycling to raise funds for a cause.

Willmar teen biking in honor of cousin

By Kayla Prasek,

On Jan. 7, 15-year-old Natasha Smith’s entire life changed.

That day, she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, meaning she will spend the rest of her life counting carbohydrates, checking her blood sugar and adjusting the dosage on her insulin pump before every meal and snack. There is no cure for Type I diabetes, just ways to control it.

Natasha Smith, left, and her cousin, MaKayla Stock, both 15, pose together for a picture. Smith was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in January and Stock plans to ride in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes Aug. 17 in La Crosse, Wis. Submitted photo

Now, the Montevideo-based Smith family, including Natasha’s mom, Roxie, dad, Kent, and sisters, Becca and Alexis, are on a mission to raise awareness about Type I diabetes. As part of their efforts, Kent Smith and MaKayla Stock — Natasha’s 15-year-old cousin who lives in Willmar — will ride in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes Aug. 17 in La Crosse, Wis.

Smith and Stock both must raise $2,000 for JDRF to participate in the ride.

“I’m doing the ride to raise awareness and money for a potential cure,” Kent Smith said. “I look at little kids who are diagnosed with it, and I think about everything they’re missing out on. Natasha was lucky to have 15 years without it. The more money we can raise, the more resources JDRF has to find a cure.”

Natasha Smith has a friend whose brother also has Type I diabetes, and the friend told the Smith family about the Ride to Cure Diabetes, Roxie Smith said. Natasha Smith said she was glad her dad and cousin decided to do the ride.

“I was really happy when they told me they were doing it,” Smith said. “It showed me that they cared enough about me to train for it.”

The JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes follows a 100-mile route that crosses the Mississippi River into Minnesota and Iowa before looping back up to La Crosse. The entire Smith and Stock families will be going with their riders to cheer them on.

Neither Stock nor Kent Smith have done a bike ride like this before, but they’ve both been training, and Stock said she’s looking forward to the weekend of the ride.

“I know the 100 miles will be hard, but in the end it’ll all be worth it,” Stock said. “I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun.”

When her cousin was diagnosed with diabetes, Stock knew she wanted to do something to help raise awareness, and riding in the Ride to Cure Diabetes was one thing she could do, even though she’s only 15.

“I really want them to find a cure, and this is a good way to raise money for one,” Stock said. “When Natasha was first diagnosed, I didn’t know that much about diabetes, but now I know a lot, and I just really want to raise awareness.”

In addition to raising funds for a potential cure for Type I diabetes, the Smith family — just like Stock — also wants to spread awareness about it.

“Type I diabetes is not caused by an unhealthy diet,” Roxie Smith said. “It’s not caused by eating too much sugar. Her diagnosis really shocked us. Neither Kent nor I have it in our families.”

Since Natasha Smith’s diagnosis, the entire Smith family has had to change the way they eat. Roxie Smith said they had always eaten as healthily as possible, but that isn’t the main concern when it comes to Type I diabetes.

“We used to take eating, cooking and grocery shopping for granted,” Kent Smith said. “Now it’s second nature to count carbs on every single package we pick up in the grocery store.”

When Natasha Smith was first diagnosed, that feeling of counting carbohydrates didn’t seem like it was ever going to be second nature, Roxie Smith said.

“I was used to her being active, but she started drinking a lot of fluids, and she wasn’t acting like herself,” Smith said. “I thought it was diabetes, so I took her to the doctor and she was admitted to the hospital for three days.”

Kent and Roxie Smith said those three days were surreal.

“I didn’t know much about diabetes, so it was pretty scary initially,” Kent Smith said. “We didn’t know what was all involved.”

Initially, the Smiths didn’t realize their daughter’s diagnosis was going to mean a total lifestyle adjustment for the whole family.

“It didn’t sink in just how serious this was,” she said. “We didn’t realize it’s a lifelong thing. It’s not going to go away.”

Smith said her daughter now has to carry all of her supplies with her at all times.

“It’s always on our minds,” Smith said. “I miss the spontaneity of everything she used to do.”

Natasha Smith said she misses the freedom that Type I diabetes has taken away from her.

“I have to constantly be monitoring and keeping track of everything,” Smith said. “You can’t just eat what you want. There’s no freedom.”

Learning how to count carbohydrates, check her blood sugar, inject herself with insulin and now take care of an insulin pump has brought a harsh realization to Smith.

“It never goes away,” Smith said. “It’s just always there, and I always have to be thinking about it.”

To donate to Kent Smith, visit To donate to MaKayla Stock, visit

MaKayla Stock, of Willmar, trains plans to ride in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes. Tribune photo by Ron Adams