DERRY — Ryan and Brad Goodwin have something in common with football star Vince Wilfork and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.: diabetes.
The eighth-grade twins spent time with the New England Patriots’ All-Pro defensive lineman and Shaheen during a special assembly March 26 at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.
Shaheen and Wilfork are teaming up to support diabetes research and education. They came to Hood for Diabetes Alert Day, a one-day call for people to learn more about the disease and its risks.
Both Ryan and Brad have Type I diabetes. So, too, does Shaheen’s granddaughter Elle, who accompanied her grandmother along with her service dog Coach. Elle had only had her dog for a week, but already Coach was hard at work, alerting her to any potential diabetic dangers.
Wilfork’s father David died from the disease in 2002 at age 48.
The Hood gym was rocking before Wilfork and Shaheen arrived. Many of Hood’s 734 students sported Patriots’ jerseys and helmets. They stomped and clapped in anticipation.
But the program wasn’t about football or government, it was about a disease some 26 million Americans struggle with every day.
Wilfork quieted the crowd with childhood memories of his father’s illness.
“I was only 6 or 7 years old, and I didn’t know how bad it was or what it meant,” Wilfork said. “I remember my dad having to be carried to the restroom or bathed or fed or given insulin. I started to see the effects (diabetes) had on my family.”
Wilfork said he couldn’t go out to play much when he was young because his father needed care and his mother was working to support the family.
Losing his father made him more aware of diabetes and what it can do to a family, he said.