SHIRLEY -- An interest in health care and sports runs in her family, so it was only natural that 24-year-old Ayer High School alumnus Erin Megan of Shirley would run in her first Boston Marathon this spring for the benefit of others. Erin's chosen cause is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Two people close to Erin have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes -- Erin's 23-year-old best friend, Meghan Stewart, was diagnosed as a 13-year-old, and Erin's sister, Sarah Megan, 20, was diagnosed last June.
Sarah is a nursing student at Fitchburg State University. Their mother, Leah Megan, earned her nursing degree at the same school.
"A majority of the women in my family are nurses," said Erin.
Erin attained her degree in exercise science at UMass Amherst, where she also ran track. Erin is now at Northeastern University seeking a doctorate degree in physical therapy.
There's a healthy love of sports among the four Megan family girls and father John Megan, who coaches the Ayer-Shirley High School girls' varsity basketball team. Sister Emily, an Ayer-Shirley senior, plays on the varsity team. Meanwhile, youngest sister Casey plays on the Ayer-Shirley Middle School seventh-grade basketball team.
Erin runs daily. "I run 12 miles just for fun," said Erin. "It's nice to put the books down and just get out there and run."
Between her UMASS graduation and moving into Boston for her doctorate, Erin used to be a common site running along Ayer roadways."I ran around Ayer every single day and I constantly ran into people at Hannaford or the gas station, who would say 'oh you're that girl that runs around town' or some would even know my name even though I had no clue who they were," said Erin.
"People always ask 'why are you running?' So it's kind of nice to have a goal now. I've been thinking about a Boston Marathon run for the past six or seven years now," said Erin. "And I knew I wanted to run for charity."
Erin said she opted to run to raise funds for JDRF when her sister Sarah was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic last summer.
Sarah said she experienced vision problems while taking a summer course. "I couldn't see the board," said Sarah. "I felt 'This isn't right' and I called my doctor for an appointment.
Sarah's blood sugar level was 410 milligrams per deciliter. The normal range is 70 to 120 milligrams per deciliter.
"I went right to the hospital," said Sarah. "If you're over 120 you're considered pre-diabetic so my reading was pretty high."
Sarah said life following the diagnosis has been both good and bad, "but I think more good because it's given me a better perspective on what's important in life. It's helped me look at things differently."
"Even though it's a pain in the butt, its manageable," said Sarah. "There's worse things in life than having to prick you finger a couple times a day."
The diagnosis hasn't slowed Sarah's pace. Last November, Erin and Sarah ran together in the Ayer Fire Combination Co. 1 Thanksgiving Day 5K road race.
Sarah said running is "not quite my forte," adding that she prefers team sports like basketball and soccer. But Sarah is proud of her big sister Erin.
"I think it's great," said Sarah. "Erin's been running since high school. She's always wanted to run a marathon so she's accomplishing her goal while helping so many other people."
Erin trains every other weekend with about eight other members of the qualifying 17-member JDRF team who hail from points across the country.
"Two are from Hawaii, one is from Michigan," said Erin. "We're not all local." The members applied to the JDRF last fall to qualify for the team and Erin said she was fortunate enough to make the cut.
The snow storms of late haven't helped the training regimen. "We were supposed to do one this past Sunday but that didn't happen." Last week, the team logged a 16-mile run. When the weather cooperates, "I'm running around the city of Boston," said Erin.
To support Erin's run, visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundations' website at http://jdrfevents.donordrive.com/participant/ErinMegan. As of Saturday, she was a third of her way to her $5,000 goal.
Erin's email is firstname.lastname@example.org for anyone who has questions or would like information about donating.
Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.