Vermont Couple on 220-Mile Trek for Diabetes Support

Emily Levan and Brad Johnson are running and walking the length of Vermont’s Route 100 to raise money for the Kingwood Health Center, a diabetes clinic in Randolph

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Vermont’s Route 100 is famous as a scenic drive or bike route, winding past waterfalls and mountain ranges and through quaint towns. Emily Levan and her husband, Brad Johnson, are now experiencing it on foot. 

The couple from Northfield in central Vermont is tackling the impressive feat this week to raising money for a good cause — while getting quite a workout.

“It’s been such an amazing way to see our beautiful state and to meet the wonderful people that live in our state,” Levan said.

Heading from North Adams, Massachusetts, to Troy, Vermont — which sits on the Canadian border — is about 220 miles, Levan said.

“After COVID and being shut in a lot, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to get out and see the state,” Johnson told NECN.

It’s not just about sightseeing.

Brad has Type 1 diabetes and wanted to do something to thank the team at Gifford Health Care’s diabetes clinic in Randolph for years of individualized support, he said.

“We like to give back to folks that are doing great things in our community,” Levan said.

People with Type 1 diabetes are now recommended for a higher priority for the coronavirus vaccine, but Gov. Charlie Baker has not yet said if Massachusetts will follow suit.

The exhausting trek is raising money for the clinic, which said Tuesday it had tallied thousands of dollars so far, with more still coming in.

“It’s amazing — absolutely amazing what they’re doing,” said Jennifer Stratton, a diabetic educator at Gifford Health Care’s Kingwood Health Center.

Stratton said the center will use funds from Levan and Johnson's project to help patients in need buy diabetes supplies, which are often expensive. The money may go to a child who needs a protective case for an insulin pump, for example.

Katie John, a family nurse practitioner at Gifford who specializes in diabetes, said she sees the couple’s ultra-long-distance trip as further proof people with diabetes can have really rich and adventurous lives.

“It made me think, ‘Oh, maybe I should start training for something,’” John said, recalling how a visit to Emily and Brad along their route left her feeling inspired.

Emily and Brad said they had planned to run the length of Vermont, in less than a week, which would’ve meant running more than 30 miles a day.

However, a knee injury in Brad slowed them down. They switched to a walking pace, extending the time of their journey and allowing their dog, Finn, to join a leg departing from Waitsfield Tuesday and heading north.

“It’s a little bit like diabetes in some ways,” Johnson said, describing how he didn’t want to quit the journey, even after suffering the setback of his injury. “You’ve got to play the hand that you’re dealt. There are a lot of people who are battling issues that are much bigger and tougher than what we’re facing here, so it seemed like we didn’t want to let ourselves down and let anyone down who was following along — so we decided to keep at it.”

Johnson predicted that by mile 220, the feeling of accomplishment from helping others should numb his soreness.

“We’re still going to get to the finish line,” Levan said as she and Johnson returned to their walking following a break for a drink of water and interview.

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