There may be fun, food and fellowship, but the 2012 State College JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes is much more than just a walk.
For many, it’s a way to connect with the community, learn more about the disease and possibly even inspire one another.
Scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the annual event raises money for JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. More than 80 percent of the proceeds go to diabetes research and education for newly diagnosed children, said Diane Krentzman, walk volunteer.
“Our money will go to Hershey for research,” she said.
In its seventh year in State College, the walk draws in a wide variety of people, many of whom have been touched by diabetes, Krentzman said.
Krentzman said the walk committee is hoping for at least 40 teams to register. Teams can have any number of people, she said, and registration can be done as late as the day of the event.
About 30 to 33 teams participated in last year’s walk, Krentzman said, and about $45,000 was raised. This year they’re hoping to break $50,000.
Krentzman said the funding goes toward many different types of research projects.
“It’s so important for us to continue helping them,” she said.
The walk brings awareness in a variety of ways, Krentzman said, including spreading information about the nature of the disease itself. The faster the diagnosis, she said, “the safer it is for that child.”
The other way, she said, is by helping children see that there are others like them.
“(It’s) wonderful for these children to know they’re not alone in this disease,” she said, explaining how it is frightening for them, every day.
“There’s no vacation from diabetes,” she said.
Hayley Weyhe, a State College resident whose 10-year-old son has diabetes, founded the walk in State College, and has participated in it every year since.
She previously was affiliated with the Pittsburgh area walk, Weyhe said, which she got involved in when her son was diagnosed eight years ago.
“I wanted to use my energy for good,” she said.
Weyhe said it can be “disruptive” for her son, Elliott, to have to check his blood sugar at school, and this may create a feeling of isolation at times, so being a part of the walk helps make him aware of other children with diabetes.
“It helps to get some advice” from other families, said Weyhe.
Weyhe said diabetes isn’t just about the pancreas not working – there’s a lot of emotional distress that comes from blood sugar readings and results.
“It’s something you never get a break from,” she said.
Teri Mancuso, of State College, has a 15-year-old daughter with diabetes, and will be participating in the State College walk for the first time. However, she previously participated in the walk in Atlanta for three years, she said, so she’s familiar with the event.
Mancuso said the walk is important in order to provide families with information about the resources available to them. When her daughter was first diagnosed, she said, she didn’t know where to go or what organization to look into.
Talking to other families at these events helps her learn about aspects of the disease she may not have known before, she said, such as the different types of insulin that can be used in treatment.
“It’s a whole family thing … everybody’s affected,” she said. “Siblings, parents.”
The walk also helps children interact with others their age, who also have diabetes.
It helps them realize, she said: “I’m not alone in this.”
Registration for the May 19 walk begins at 10 a.m. The route is one-half mile, and participants can walk as long or short as they like. For more information or to register visit www.walk.jdrf.org.
According to its website, JDRF is a global organization focused on Type 1 diabetes research. Its research mission is to discover, develop and deliver advances that cure, better treat and prevent type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food, according to the website.
For more information visit www.jdrf.org.