Ian Hunter, 54, from Washington, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just two.
He is a part of the Washington Diabetes UK Group, and its chairman, George McLaughlin, arranged a special surprise for the presentation of the medal, awarded by the charity Diabetes UK.
Mr McLoughlin is also the kitman for South Shields FC, for whom former Sunderland favourite Julio Arca now plays for.
And so the midfielder was persuaded to attend a meeting of the group to hand over the medal.
Mr Hunter said: “It was very nice of Julio to come along, present the medal and meet the group.
“I’m a Sunderland fan and I used to enjoy watching him play.
“He’s a very good player, and he was also very friendly with us all when he came to see us.”
Mr Hunter needs four injections a day, and enjoys being part of the group, which meets once every two months at Washington Leisure Centre.
Dietitians and doctors often attend to give group members tips, and it also provides a good support network where people can discuss how diabetes affects them.
Mr Hunter has already significantly beaten the odds.
He added: “In the early days after my diagnosis, my mam and dad were told that I’d be lucky to see 25.
“Treatment of diabetes has improved over the years and I’ve more than doubled the age they didn’t think I’d reach.
“It is a difficult thing to live with, but you just have to get on with it.”
The group recently held a bucket collection at a South Shields match, and raised £247.82.
Mr Arca said: “It was great to meet Ian and the group and to see the good work they do.
“It must be a very difficult condition to live with, and I have nothing but admiration for the way they deal with it.
“Hopefully their day at the Shields game was a successful one for them and they were able to raise awareness as well as funds.”
Anyone interested in joining the group – which will next meet tonight at 6.30pm – can contact Mr McLaughlin on 0191 416 6202 or 07964 075776.