It is walk season, and run season, and plunge into a cold lake season, and soon-to-be bike ride season. All for good causes. You can’t do them all. In our family we’ve chosen the Walk to Cure Diabetes, sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), held this Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Mall of America.

Since our now teenage daughters were in a stroller, my wife Ann and I and whoever we can get to go with us have participated in the Walk to Cure Diabetes. We have long been volunteers with JDRF, but the walk is the highlight.  It’s an amazing sight: 15,000 people walking through all levels of the Mall at 8 a.m. There are also bands, artists, Vikings cheerleaders and jugglers. It’s a day when your politics or your hometown or your school or your religious views don’t matter. Everyone is there for the same reason.

Organizers hope to raise $1.9 million for crucial research to find a cure, much of it done at the University of Minnesota. We have done our share of cajoling, persuading and pressuring our friends and family to become donors.

We go because Ann was diagnosed with Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes in 1984, just as she was completing graduate school in psychology. Over the years, despite taking good care of herself, she has suffered many complications including heart problems, neuropathy or lack of feeling in her legs and kidney failure.

In 2001 she had a kidney transplant (a kidney donated by an older sister) and a few weeks later a pancreas transplant (donated by someone who had died). They have been a Godsend. She has normal kidney function and no longer needs to take insulin shots four times daily. The transplants stabilized her condition, but she still suffers from many complications and takes two dozen pills daily.

We go to the walk because there are millions of others who still suffer from diabetes and face serious long-term complications. As many as three million Americans, many of them children, have Type 1 diabetes in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Another 20 million Americans, mostly adults, have Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively.

It is a disease that has serious implications for our health care system. It’s estimated that diabetes accounts for more than $174 billion in health care costs annually in the U.S. The disease is a major contributor to kidney failure, heart attacks, nerve damage, strokes and blindness.

We go to the walk because we see hundreds of young kids there who have diabetes and who need our help and support. We go to the walk to show their parents and friends and siblings that they are not alone in this good fight to find a cure.

Our daughters, Sadie, 14, and Evie, almost 12, have made the walk an important cause in their lives. They enlist their friends and classmates to participate. They’ve invited all the girls from Sadie’s basketball team from last year to join us and their other friends.

We go on the walk not only to raise money for a cure, but because the walk is about hope. Hope that future generations of children and young adults and their parents will not have to experience what Ann has faced all these many years.

A special feature of this year’s walk will provide hope for the estimated 300,000 Haitians who suffer from diabetes and are in desperate need of diabetes supplies following the earthquake. Walkers have been encouraged to bring donations of insulin, syringes, alcohol pads and glucose test strips to the Mall on Saturday. The supplies will be sent to Haiti.

If you want to support the walk, participate or just learn more about it, go to www.walk.jdrf.org.

 

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