20. Sep 2021

Walking in Memory of a Lost Loved One

Walking in Memory of a Lost Loved One

Zuzanna Dzialowska
After her daughter died, Anthea Usher resolved to raise diabetes awareness in her community. The Global Diabetes Walk has become a key element of her campaign.
The 2020 Walk in memory of Caylee Usher in Cape Town, South Africa.

What inspired you? WDF asked this question of our 2021 Walk organisers – and received some poignant responses. One of them was from Anthea Usher of Cape Town, South Africa. 

Anthea’s daughter, Caylee, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 12 years old. Caylee struggled with the disease and its daily challenges, Anthea recalls – the insulin injections and glucose tests, the new dietary rules, and the effects of a complex chronic disease on her schoolwork and social life.

“Caylee felt that she was ‘different’ from her friends, she felt angry that she couldn’t do or eat what her friends could. …” Anthea says.

In March 2018, when Caylee was just 18, she contracted a virus that entered her bloodstream and caused her death. 

“If she didn’t have diabetes, her body might have been stronger to fight the virus. It has been the most difficult and saddest experience that we, as a family, have had to live through,” Anthea says.

It was also an experience whose important, painful learnings Anthea decided to share.

"People need to know"

She began by targeting schools and parents, to raise awareness about diabetic youth and their challenges. She also distributed educational materials provided by Youth with Diabetes and other resources donated by the International Diabetes Federation. Local radio stations invited Anthea for interviews and community newspapers published her articles advocating for better diabetes awareness and care.

“There is a lot of awareness of non-communicable diseases like cancer, HIV or tuberculosis, but hardly any about diabetes. Especially in Cape Town,” says Anthea. “My motivation for campaigning is not just to remember my daughter, but to create awareness and support all who live with diabetes and have lost loved ones due to diabetes complications.”

On 23 November 2019, Anthea concluded her campaign with a Global Diabetes Walk in memory of Caylee. About 200 people attended. 

The Memory of Caylee Usher Facebook page.

Anthea was set to repeat the success in 2020, but COVID-19 disrupted her plans. Her campaign began in September, later than planned, and her walk went virtual with its own Facebook page, In Memory of Caylee Usher. Nevertheless, the Walk had more than 100 participants.  

In a heart-breaking development, Anthea’s brother, who also had Type 1 diabetes, died in January of this year after contracting COVID-19. Yet Anthea still plans to continue her campaign – and her efforts to raise diabetes awareness in South Africa – with a new campaign in 2021. In fact, it is well under way.

“Even though the pandemic has caused authorities to place restrictions on gatherings, I plan to go ahead with the 2021 Walk, whether we incorporate virtual again or not. People need to know that diabetes awareness is very relevant during the pandemic,” the South African organiser says.

Motivated and creative

Anthea Usher is not alone. Other Global Diabetes Walk organisers are showing high motivation and more than a little bit of creativity in 2021. 

For example, Marianela Fanjul from Argentina will walk with friends while hosting a live broadcast on her Instagram account.

IINSA’s Global Diabetes Walk 2020 in Nicaragua. 

In Nicaragua, El Instituto de Investigación en Nutrición y Seguridad Alimentaria (IINSA) is organising a run on a football field, while Canvasback Missions is planning an island-style triathlon in the Marshall Islands with the support of a local radio station. 

Other Walk organisers are just determined to carry on. 

“Walks help us to attract the attention of all major stakeholders and society in general through mobilizing mass media and social media tools,” says Simon Gabritchidze, Executive Director of the Welfare Foundation in Georgia. “Everything depends on the Covid-19 situation … therefore, at the moment it is hard to say which particular activities will be chosen for this year's Walk.”

But one thing is sure, he says – walk they will.

“It has become like a tradition,” he says. “We have been organising the Walk together with our partners since 2013."