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10/16/2012 - 1:28pm

(October 16, 2012)… It has been just over 16 years that Bill Gregory received the news that changed his life. The former marketing executive learned his year and a half old grandson, Lucas, had Type 1 diabetes and the rest, as they say, is history.

“My grandson is now 18 years old, but finding out he had diabetes at such a young age was devastating,” he said. “I knew right then I had to quit my job and dedicate my life to bringing awareness to this disease and finding a cure. I have dedicated every single day of my life for over 16 years to this.”

As part of his mission, he founded the Dinner of Champions to fundraise for the Canadian Diabetes Association. The ninth installment of the event is being held on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at Carmen’s Banquet Center in Hamilton, Ontario. The event features cocktails, dinner, live and silent auctions, and the opportunity to meet athletes from the world of sports. (Photo from last year's event - Tina Styres, Vera Styres, Sylvester Stallone and Glenn Styres)

Among the 45 athletes in attendance are Melissa Tancredi, Summer Mortimer and Hilda Binns. Tancredi played soccer for Team Canada and recently won the bronze medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Mortimer, who is a Paralympian, came away with four medals in swimming at the 2012 Paralympics. Binns is also a Paralympian, who won her first of 24 medals for Canada in 1968. Mortimer will be the Keynote Speaker at the Ohsweken Speedway Dinner of Champions and will be talking about her experience at the 2012 Paralympics.

“This event is not only to recognize the big stars, but also to give honor to athletes in our community that have put us on the map,” said Gregory, who is now a Development Officer for the Canadian Diabetes Association. “We want to be proud to say this is our community, but also to bring in stars to walk with us and fight diabetes.”

Ohsweken Speedway enters its second year as the title sponsor and is hosted by Rochester Knighthawks Owner and General Manager Curt Styres, his brother and Sprint Car racer Glenn Styres, and their mother, Vera. According to Gregory, the Styres’ family saved the dinner, which has raised over $300,000 in the past eight years.

“A couple of the guys who sponsored the Dinner of Champions got financially hit and lost their businesses. I had to figure out a way to get out of the massive hole I was placed in. So, I called Curt and Glenn’s mother, Vera, and asked for help. They put me on solid ground and built this dinner to be the biggest, most successful event within one year.”

“It just seemed like an awesome fit for us because we are able to give back to our community. By being part of the Dinner of Champions we are able to fundraise and bring awareness to the struggles Native Americans have with diabetes,” said Glenn Styres. “I never realized over 50 percent of the Native American population has diabetes or pre-diabetes or how serious and damaging the disease can be. I think it is a perfect event for us to be involved in and it is a great way for us to make a difference.”

Along with Glenn Styres, there will be a slew of sports figures attending the Dinner of Champions on Thursday to fight a disease that is growing world-wide. Diabetes currently affects over nine million Canadians. In the United States, 25.8 million have diabetes and another 79 million have pre-diabetes. The roster of players on Thursday will also include National Lacrosse League stars Cody Jamieson, Mike Accursi, Andy Secore, and Jordan Hall of the Rochester Knighthawks, along with Hamilton Nationals star Brodie Merrill, who also plays for the NLL Philadelphia Wings. Jamieson won the 2012 NLL Champion’s Cup MVP and one of the top scorers for the Hamilton Nationals.

“Diabetes currently affects over nine million Canadians with nearly one million of these people not knowing they have the disease,” said Secore. “I have been attending the event because I think the Dinner of Champions is a great opportunity for people to come together and raise awareness about the cause, while supporting the organization in raising money for research to help find a cure. The dinner is always a great way to meet all kinds of inspiring people.”

Hall of the Rochester Knighthawks and Hamilton Nationals also commented on the Dinner of Champions event stating, “It is an easy way to help a great cause.”

Some of these athletes, who will be available for autographs and photographs, include former National Hockey League stars Curtis Joseph, Lou Franceschetti, Vic Hadfield, Jim McKenny and Pat Hickey. Canadian Football League star Dave Stala, Canadian Snooker player Cliff Thorburn and all four division winners from Ohsweken Speedway will be attendance. Another sport figure from the world of lacrosse who will attend the event is Shawn Evans of the Calgary Roughnecks.

“I am honored to be attending this event with such big names. It’s for a great cause,” said Evans. “I am excited; it should be a great event.”

Individual tickets for the Ohsweken Speedway Dinner of Champions can be purchased for $125 and corporate tables of eight can be purchased for $1,000.  If you are interested in attending the event, call Carmen’s Box Office at 985-387-0007 or 1-800-753-9857 to purchase tickets. All individuals attending the dinner will be able to interact with these sport figures from around the world.

“One other thing I promised to myself was to help the other guy. I have had a pretty good life,” said Gregory, who is now 70 years old. “My grandfather was born on the Six Nations Reserve. I made a commitment in my lifetime that if I could have any clout was to bring First Nations folks like Glenn off the Reserve so they could get the respect they deserve. It’s melding everyone together. Then it’s life worth living. It’s much more than a Dinner of Champions. It’s much more profound than that if you look deeper.”

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