When you're 11 years old and different, you can shy away from the world. Or you can seek to change it.
Coquitlam's Brandon Taylor, who has Type 1 diabetes (T1D), has chosen the latter, taking on the role of youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The foundation is holding its annual Ride for Juvenile Diabetes Research Today (Friday) where Brandon will be front and centre.
"It's kind of a big successful day, celebrating all the money that we've raised so far. It's what we've being working for to help get people into the event and active with it," he said.
Brandon has been taking on speaking engagements at schools and businesses during the last year to help raise money and awareness of the illness that affects thousands of children.
With T1D, kids' pancreases stop producing insulin, the hormone vital in regulating blood sugar. Unlike Type 2 Diabetes, there is no known cause.
But that could change through research, Brandon hopes, and fundraising has been good.
"They set a fundraising goal record. They've never raised this kind of money before in Vancouver and it looks like they're going to set a national record this year, which is amazing," said Brandon's father Mike. "Brandon is really excited."
Excelling as he is, Brandon still faces challenges most kids don't.
"Being in middle school it's kind of hard keeping the schedule of a sixth-grader and taking care of diabetes, but I manage to do it," the middle school student said.
"Usually I just have to make sure I'm feeling OK and making sure my blood sugar is good, but most of the time I'm good with it. I have a watch that has a bunch of alarms on it."
Brandon has to measure his blood sugar four times a day, which has now added up to 8,000 finger pricks since he was five. He takes insulin injections at breakfast, dinner and before midnight.
Appropriately, Brandon is a student at Ecole Banting Middle School, named for Dr. Frederick Banting, the Canadian Nobel Prize winner who, along with Charles Best, was a co-discoverer of the insulin the youth now relies on. Every year the school does fundraising for diabetes research.
Not content with just being a spokesman and successful fundraiser, Brandon is also now looking to expand his role within the foundation to bolster the cause.
"Next year I'm going to be taking on the roll of senior ambassador. Instead of going to all the speaking events, I'll be helping with a bunch of big stuff," he said
Specifically, he'll serve as a role model and advisor to other youth ambassadors, helping them to write their speeches.
"He's just always tried to go above and beyond to help other people. He's never been the type of kid to say 'woe is me because I have diabetes,'" Mike said, beaming with pride.
The Ride for Juvenile Diabetes Research takes place Friday, 10 a.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery. More information is available at www.jdrf.ca.