Tonight, the world's greatest monuments are getting the blues, from the Eiffel Tower to the Coliseum; from the Opera house in Sidney to the Town Hall in Bell Buckle, these landmarks will be illuminated with blue lights to draw attention to World Diabetes Day.
"The UN created a Unite for Diabetes campaign two years ago, right after I was diagnosed," said Brad Simmons, 36, who has Type II diabetes. "They did a campaign with geocaching and gave 10,000 Unite for Diabetes travel bugs."
Geocaching is the sport in which people go on treasure hunts using their GPS systems. "Bugs" are small items often left in the cache. Simmons has been active in geocaching, once ranked in the top 10, and helped bring next spring's mega-cache event, GeoWoodstock, to Bell Buckle.
"It struck me as I looked down the list of paces that were going to be lit up, there was the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe," said Simmons. "In the U.S., there was the (Gateway) Arch in St. Louis. There was nothing in the Southeast. The nearest thing was a building in Indianapolis."
Simmons went back and looked at the list of participating places again, This time he noticed that smaller towns in Europe were also joining in the awareness-raising event.
"There are piazzas in Italy, " he said. "How much great it is to see the small towns getting together to do it as volunteers,
"It made sense to me to start small."
And you can't start much smaller that Bell Buckle. The Simmons family has long had ties with the town. Brad's father, Rodney, is the chairman of the planning committee and his mother, Linda, is the president of the chamber of commerce. Rodney was working with Bell Buckle alderman Jenny Hunt on the GeoWoodstock event when he mentioned his idea of adding Bell Buckle to the list of the towns going blue for diabetes and Hunt thought it was a good one.
"Webb School heard about it and they're going to light up the library, too," said Hunt.
Simmons found out about his diabetes a couple of years ago. When he went to the doctor because he was feeling bad, he wasn't surprised when the verdict came in.
"I knew I wasn't feeling well," said Simmons. "I knew there was something wrong. My thoughts weren't clear. I had the typical symptoms."
His physical revealed what was making him feel so badly -- Type II diabetes.
"It was a devastating thing to find out and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "It was a real wake up call."
A friend of his from New Orleans was a life-long diabetic and counseled him on medical advice and lifestyle changes.
"I've always been a big guy, I played football," Simmons said. "You don't realize that you're 400, 450 pounds. It adds up. I started watching what I ate, exercising. We started hiking and we try to go every weekend."
Simmons rides his bike or walks the 2 1?2 miles to work every day and he's also started nagging his family members, also at risk for diabetes, to do the same.
"It's better to stop it before it starts," he said. "I don't want them to go through this like I have."
That's one reason Simmons got involved with the Unite for Diabetes campaign this year -- he wants to spread the word and raise awareness for everyone, not just his family.
In the future, he'd like to do more, adding educational seminars or guest speakers. But for now, he's happy to join the rest of the world in getting the blues -- the Unite for Diabetes blues.
"I've got a friend who's a lighting designer and he helped me," he said. "At 6 p.m., we will turn them on and they'll run up to 8 p.m., and we will be right there, just like Paris and Rome."
Symptoms of diabetes
Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of its symptoms seem so harmless. Recent studies indicate that the early detection of diabetes symptoms and treatment can decrease the chance of developing the complications of diabetes. Some diabetes symptoms include:
* Frequent urination
* Excessive thirst
* Extreme hunger
* Unusual weight loss
* Increased fatigue
* Blurry vision
Source: American Diabetes Association