While most of the Dallas Stars are currently spending their summers across the world in their hometowns, Stars forward Toby Petersen was just down the highway in Lancaster, Texas, last week. Toby spent one of his mornings making a surprise appearance on “western day” at a youth camp for the American Diabetes Association, for the second year in a row.
Toby arrived at Camp New Horizons with his two little boys in tow at 9:00 AM, and jump-started the campers day by telling his own inspirational story of living and playing professional hockey with type 1 diabetes. The children, ages 4-17, all of whom are dealing with the disease themselves, sat Indian style in their matching T Shirts and gave this “hero” their undivided attention as he spoke on stage. Toby talked about what his childhood was like growing up with diabetes, and how he deals with the disease now as a professional athlete. He then took questions from the kids which ranged from “do all hockey players get their teeth knocked out?” to “do you disconnect your pump to play hockey games?” and “what kind of insulin pump do you wear?”
Following the Q&A, Toby was invited to do some line dancing with campers, to the tune of the “cupid shuffle.” Although he didn’t quite look the part of a cowboy- donning his black Dallas Stars Jersey, khaki shorts, and Birkenstocks, Toby shuffled with the best of them, to the delight of all the laughing and smiling campers. After the group line danced, Toby stuck around to watch the children’s talent show, complete with a solo break dance, and a “diabetes rap.” It was obvious thorough the bright eyes and big smiles on the children’s faces that they were so excited to be sharing their morning with Toby, and he seemed to be genuinely enjoying his time with them as well.
“It’s a lot of fun, it brings back memories from when I was roughly about the same age, going to camps just like this,” Petersen commented.
It’s one of many appearances that Petersen has made to spread awareness to children about diabetes. Petersen, who was diagnosed with diabetes when he was just five years old, makes it a point to use his success as a professional athlete as a platform to inspire young kids who are in the same situation that he once was, and let them know that they can, in fact, still do anything they want in life.
“It means a lot to me to get to do these things, and the main reason I do it is to tell the kids that they can achieve whatever they want, and reach their goals. With hard work and dedication, they can do whatever they want to do.” said Petersen, after passing out dozens of autographed player cards to the young children.
Sherry Hill, Director of education for the American Diabetes Association, couldn’t have been happier to have Toby at camp, as she said, “It’s just wonderful to have him speak to the kids, because so many people have been telling them since they were diagnosed at age four and five that they have limits to what they can do.. And seeing him takes off those limits, he’s just one of them.”
And on this hot summer day, as he danced, took pictures, and shared his story, Toby truly seemed to be just one of the kids at camp.