When then 14-year-old David Lackner was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in June 2009, he knew his life would change. An athlete who played AAA hockey and travel lacrosse, he was afraid and confused. When he got back on his feet, he picked up unicycling as a way to keep occupied.
It will keep him occupied come August, when David, his father Dan, brother Matthew and a friend will be riding from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Washington, D.C. over six days. David will be on his 36-inch unicycle and the others will be on bikes.
They will ride 60-70 miles a day on the C&O Canal trail and the East Allegheny Passage, stopping at pre-determined bed and breakfasts each night. David’s mother will be nearby in a car, trailing them from the closest road
David came up with the idea while talking with a teacher at Landon School in Bethesda, where he attends. The teacher, a bike rider himself, suggested some sort of long ride to raise awareness.
"A few years ago, we had thought about doing a bike ride from my grandparents’ house [which is near Pittsburgh]," David said. "Once we decided to do this trip, we knew we would start there, so we plotted out a route and some good points to stop."
As an athlete, one might think that his condition would affect his performance on the ice or the field, but David said the transition was fairly smooth.
"It was difficult at first, I would have to stop and come out to check my blood sugar, and sometimes I would miss drills because of that," David said. "But you eventually get into a routine."
His father said that the disease has actually helped David’s performance, because now he has to pay attention to everything that goes into his body.
"He’s eating better than he ever has before, because you have to be so careful," Dan Lackner said. "I think this is a thing David’s doing to show you can rise above things. It’s something you probably wouldn’t do without the diabetes, but when you have it, it’s nice to do it to prove you can."
Father and son have been training for the past two months, attempting to take 40-60 mile rides wherever they can. A few weeks ago, they were in New Jersey and rode from Stone Harbor to Cape May, a trip of more than 30 miles.
THE TRIP will have two really difficult days, the second day, which will be mostly uphill as they travel to the Eastern Continental Divide, and the last day, when they will take all 60 miles from Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. to Washington, D.C.
"I liked the idea of a unicycle, because it’s all about balance, and so is diabetes," David said. "If you go to fast, or get out of control with your eating, it’s going to get you in trouble."
David will be doing this to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. People can donate per mile (the trip is about 350 miles) or just a flat donation. More information about David’s trip and a link to donate can be found at unicyclesjd.webs.com