August, 2009 – New York, NY – Indiana’s Valpariso University’s men’s soccer team has teamed up with St. Lucian reggae artist Taj Weekes to help launch TOCO HEALTH’s “Sneakers Not Wheelchairs” - a public health initiative that will target the diabetes crisis in St. Lucia. The team will conduct a fundraiser during the season home opener on September 6th against Michigan.
They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) is a U.S.-based not-for-profit organization founded by St. Lucian reggae artist Taj Weekes and is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged, at-risk and orphaned children in the Caribbean through sport, enrichment, educational and wellness programs. TOCO HEALTH targets the diabetes crisis in St. Lucia which can only be described as epidemic. A recent study found that St. Lucia has the highest rate of diabetes in the world with 28.1% of a population of 173,000 having high blood sugar and some 8.1% of the population being diabetic. Reportedly, children as young as two years old suffer from limb amputation and severe illness. Alarmed by the escalating rate of diabetes in his homeland, Weekes saw a natural connection between the healthy exercise provided by soccer and its positive benefits in helping to prevent Type 2 diabetes amongst the youth.
In November, during Diabetes Awareness Month, TOCO’s “Sneakers Not Wheelchairs” campaign will bring blood glucose meters, test strips, educational and nutritional materials and several volunteer doctors to St. Lucia for a health fair. The campaign is also planning to get an increased number of school children involved in the Annual Fun
Walk to promote health and exercise. The goal of the “Sneakers Not Wheelchairs” campaign is to raise awareness of this epidemic by getting kids to play soccer, eat right and eventually eliminate diabetes in St. Lucia for good.
Valpariso’s fundraiser will help TOCO purchase supplies for November’s mission trip. Spectators are encouraged to donate what they can knowing that they can watch a great game and help a great cause at the same time.