Teen Goalie Saves Best For Diabetes Awareness










by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Photo: Facebook

Most teenaged hockey players compete for fun, while the elite play for the eyes of major junior, college and professional scouts.

But Londoner Preston Swan-Merrison, a goaltender with the Jr. C Lucas Irish and backup netminder with the Jr. B Chatham Maroons, takes his passion for hockey to another level. The 17-year-old student at Monseigneur-Bruyère high school uses the sport to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes, a disease he has lived with since being diagnosed at age 9.

Already a well-known advocate for diabetes education, research and fundraising, “Swanny,” as he is recognized by friends and social media followers, will take part in the inaugural World Diabetes Day Dskate Hockey Classic Nov. 13-15 at the Canlan Ice York facility at York University.

The Dskate Hockey Program, founded by Steven Hindle who grew up in a Type 1 household, focuses on helping young hockey players and parents recognize the value of nutrition and exercise. Players with Type 1 diabetes aged 7 to 17 register for camps twinning diabetes and nutrition education with hockey.

Dskate Hockey Classic will involve more than 200 boys and girls and their families, and includes a three-day tournament, skills combine, sharing of life experiences and education sessions.

Preston will attend with his father, Jason, while his mother, Josie, and sister Jasmine, 14, cheer him on back home where he has already earned a deserved reputation as an overachiever and an inspiration to all.

By the time Preston started playing competitive hockey at age 14, his life had already changed because of Type 1 diabetes.

“I had to change how I ate, and there was so much more responsibility in everything,” he said. “I need to make sure I keep my levels balanced, like treating low blood sugars at night. In the middle of the night sometimes I’ll drop, and at 2 a.m. have to test my blood sugar and have a snack. It’s a 24/7 job. You can’t take any breaks from it.”

Photo: Facebook

At age 11, while attending a summer camp for children with epilepsy (Jasmine has epilepsy), Preston met author/artist Aaron Bengall and convinced him to write a children’s book on Type 1 diabetes. That book, Preston’s Big Game, uses a hockey game to explain how diabetes affects the body.

For example, in the book, Team Swanny plays hockey on top of a cell with a puck made of sugar, and wants to score in order to energize the body.

“I remember getting diagnosed and not having much information written for someone my age,” Preston explained, “so I asked, what if we wrote something more advanced and involved hockey, so I could talk about the struggles and symptoms? I sat down with author, it all came together.”

A Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Youth Ambassador, Preston was one of 13 teens to receive the 2015 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year award from Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

“As JDFR ambassador, I went to Ottawa as an advocate at Parliament Hill where we met with politicians and asked for more funding. And I gave talks too, which was cool. And it was a great opportunity to win the Citizen of the Year award. That was amazing,” Preston said.

For the past six years, Preston has run a Socktober fundraiser seeking socks for homeless people and those in need. And he has organized an awareness event for epilepsy.

Preston said he’s already looking forward to attending the Dskate summer camp in London Aug. 3-7, 2020 at Thompson Arena where he’ll fill the role of ambassador and mentor.

“Dskate offers an amazing experience. You learn to manage sports with Type 1 diabetes. And you meet other athletes who face the same struggles as you. It’s a great community, and you form strong relationships,” he said.

As a youngster, Preston was mentored by former London Knights star Max Domi, now with the Montreal Canadiens, who also has Type 1 diabetes. It was Domi, author of the new book, No Days Off, who convinced Preston to wear his insulin pump while tending net.

Still considering where to attend university and what to study, Preston said he’s interested in law enforcement and in teaching. But no matter what his future holds, Swanny said he’ll continue to inspire others.

“Don’t give up, just keep pushing through,” he said. “I’m making the most of what got handed to me. I made a book. From that first initiative I kept moving forward, and it has made me a stronger person and has given me more opportunities.”


Update from London Public Library:

Photo: London Public Library Facebook.

Students from Mme Bénéteau’s advanced Spanish class at Monseigneur-Bruyère Catholic Secondary School set up displays at Beacock Branch and Central Library to raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes. The display focuses on their newly published dual language book, The Big Button Saves the Day / El gran botón salva el día, created as a class project with local author Aaron Bengall. Students wrote, translated into Spanish, and illustrated the book that uses a story about a soccer game to explain how insulin treats diabetes.

The project was inspired by a student in the class, Preston Swan-Merrison, who has Type 1 diabetes and had worked with Aaron on a hockey-themed book (Preston’s Big Game) in 2014. The class was enthusiastic about supporting their classmate and creating a book, so the project took off with the help of their teacher Mme Colette Bénéteau and Aaron. Students at Western Student Experience assisted with editing the Spanish translation.

These displays will be in the Children’s Library at Central and at Beacock Branch during November which is Diabetes Awareness Month.

Find a list of diabetes resources at the Library at this link: http://bit.ly/2pWiLLH

The new book, The Big Button Saves the Day / El gran botón salva el día, will be available to borrow from our catalogue in the near future.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office https://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com. Sports journalist since 1980.

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