When bad things happen, seemingly out of nowhere, reactions can vary wildly.
In 2011, Washougal resident Paige Maas was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disorder, where the body attacks insulin-producing cells. Without artificial insulin, administered through a pump or syringe, Type 1 is fatal.
Although just 7 years old at the time, Paige and her family decided to go on the attack and fight for a cure in any way they could.
The next year, her dad, Brad Maas, a pilot for Delta Airlines, put together a cycling team to participate in the annual Tour de Cure, a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association, which takes place in Hillsboro. He named the team, “Paige’s Pilots,” in honor of his daughter.
During the tour, participants cycle distances ranging from 10 to 104 miles. There is also a 3 mile walk option. Those with diabetes wear a red shirt that distinguishes them as a “Red Rider.” They begin at the front of the pack of cyclists, and are encouraged and cheered on by others.
Red is meant to symbolize the blood used to test blood sugar.
That first year, the group of six raised $5,000. Four years later, in 2016, it has grown to 42 people, representing 10 different states, who raised more than $32,000 for diabetes prevention efforts at Tour de Cure July 30.
Paige’s Pilots was the largest team in both members and fundraising. In addition to efforts from team members, Brad noted that fundraisers at Caps N’ Taps and Amnesia Brewing, along with donations and raffle prizes from Camas Bike & Sport, and Pure Wellness Chiropractic and Massage, all helped.
“We had a record-breaking year and it was incredible,” Brad said. “Out of the 42 cyclists, we had 16 who were recognized as fundraising champions, meaning they each raised more than $1,000.”
Of the 800 participants at the tour, there were 78 fundraising champions, which meant Paige’s Pilots comprised almost a quarter of the group.
Included in the champions’ circle were Paige, her 10-year-old sister, Jamie, 13-year-old Makayla Buzzell of Camas, and 9-year-old Laura Lenney of Battle Ground.
Other local youth involved in Paige’s Pilots were Blake Bell and Megan Finley, both of Camas.
Jamie has spent her entire childhood watching her sister deal with the impacts of Type I Diabetes, which includes strict diet control and checking blood sugar levels several times a day.
It is Jamie’s second year of participating in the 29 mile ride.
“It was a lot easier this year because I had a road bike instead of a mountain bike,” she said.
But even when the going got tough, Jamie had her sister and others living with diabetes as inspiration.
“Some of the Red Riders even did 104 miles,” she said. “If people with Type 1 or 2 can do that, then we can do 10 or 29 miles. Every year, I want to raise even more money to help my sister. I know that Paige has been longing for a cure for some time now, and I want to do my best to help her.”
Buzzell was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2012. She and her dad, Mark, a pilot for Virgin America, have participated in Tour de Cure since 2014.
Makayla has ridden the 29-mile event in the past, but this year had other commitments, so she elected to do the 10 mile ride with her dad and Paige’s mom, Pam. Brad participated in the 104 mile ride.
“I really like it,” she said. “Being able to see everyone out there and supporting us is great. It is also inspiring to meet other people with Type 1 and 2 diabetes who are doing really well.”
Paige also did the 10 miler this year, due to being ill. Two weeks later, she also participated in the 29 mile virtual ride.
“My favorite part is being a Red Rider and seeing everyone come together for a cure,” she said. “It is really cool being in the front and seeing a whole sea of red together.”
Pam gets emotional whenever she hears someone shout, “Go Red Rider!”
“I can’t help it,” she said with a smile. “The American Diabetes Association is just amazing and what they do at this event is so supportive. They really love kids participating and really keep us going when it gets difficult.”
Added Jamie, “I really like the tour because everyone does different lengths of riding, but no matter what, it still counts because you are fundraising for the same thing. I love to see other people want to help, too.”
Mark appreciates how positive the environment is at Tour de Cure, and how friends on social media rally around Makayla.
“They don’t know her personally, but are so supportive and encouraging of our efforts,” he said. “It’s touching for them to see these two young girls and how strong they are, and how much they are hoping to find a cure. It isn’t about the big donations, but about everyone doing a little bit at a time. It all adds up.”