Dahlgren hopes to be an inspiration to fellow Type 1 diabetics

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald York Lions forward Kaleb Dahlgren stretches out for the ball during a game of hockey at the Diabetes Canada’s D-Camp held at the Saskatchewan Children’s Camp in Christopher Lake.

As he was making his way through minor hockey, Kaleb Dahlgren didn’t have a role model when it came to a player who had Type 1 diabetes like he did.

Although Bobby Clarke’s success is well known, the Hockey Hall of Fame inductee had retired from the National Hockey League 13 years before Dahlgren was born.

The closest thing to a mentor that he had was current Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who is two years older than Dahlgren and was leaving junior hockey by the time the Saskatoon Product was entering the SJHL.

“There’s a lot of kids now who see what Max is doing and know that making the NHL is possible, but I really didn’t have that,” Dahlgren said. 

“Now there’s camps and other programs that help to support young people and I think there are more aware and understanding of what Type 1 diabetes is.”

The former Notre Dame Hounds and Humboldt Broncos forward, who is now a member of the York Lions U Sports program, is now looking to give back and help youngsters with Type I diabetes.

After founding the Dahlgren’s Diabeauties program in Humboldt during the 2017-18 season, he has now a mentor to those with the disease, which led to his appearance as a guest speaker Thursday at the Diabetes Canada’s D-Camp that is held at the Saskatchewan Children’s Camp in Christopher Lake.

“This wasn’t something that was available for me when I was growing up so to be able to come up here is really special,” Dahlgren said. “It’s nice to give back and to be a role model for those with Type 1 diabetes, as it’s something that can be tough to explain to people when they don’t really understand the complications that you go through.”

“I wasn’t expecting things to blow up like they have. I was hoping for the program in Humboldt to be a peer mentorship program, which it has been, but it’s really taken off into making public appearances and giving speeches.”

The camp, which runs until Sunday, is attended by kids between the ages of 7 and 15 that are in Saskatchewan and have Type 1 diabetes.

“There’s a lot of these kids that come from small rural communities and coming to a camp like this helps them realize that they are not alone,” said Brie Hnetka, who is the Regional Director for Diabetes Canada in Saskatchewan.

“Having Kaleb come here is a real special opportunity for us. There aren’t many people like him in the province that have gone through his challenge to reach his goals in hockey and we’re really lucky to have him speak to the kids.”

Dahlgren’s next big goal is to return to playing the game that he loves on a full-time basis, as he spent the 2018-19 campaign recovering from injuries that he sustained in the Humboldt Broncos bus accident last April.

“I’m hoping to get back out there this season, especially as I think we have a group of guys with our team that have a chance to be very successful,” Dahlgren said. “If there’s a year where we have an opportunity to win it all, it would be this one.

“It wasn’t a big adjustment for me when it came to the schooling side of things, but there was a bit of a change when it came to getting used to being in Toronto and learning to balance everything with school work, training, physio and other things. So far though, I’m really enjoying the experience down there.”