Why Awareness Runs and Walks are Helpful to the Cause

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • I have to admit, I was a bit reluctant to participate in our local Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) Walk to Cure Diabetes this past weekend. No, I don't mind the walking; I love to walk (but just don't ask me to run)! I dreaded sending out the emails, letters, and making the phone calls asking friends and family for donations. A lot of people are having a tough time making ends meet, I thought, what right did I have asking them for money?


    Much of my reticence stemmed from my feeling that people are asked to give so much, all of the time. Think about going to the grocery store - how many times are you asked for money? Going into and out of the store often means running the gauntlet of Girl Scouts, Little Leaguers, Boy Scouts, cheerleaders, band members all selling some treat, and then at check out, being asked to give on behalf of a myriad of causes.

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    Don't get me wrong, if I could, I would give and give and give. But since reality is what it is, I have limited funds to donate, and often feel guilty for not being able to give and give. It's this guilt that I resent.


    So I found myself a few weeks ago, having signed my family up to participate in the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, sitting at my computer and hesitating for the millionth time to push the send key on the dozens of emails I'd crafted asking those I knew to give money to the cause. But I hit the enter bar, and off went my request for money, and in came the donations.


    It wasn't until after I'd finished the Walk that I'd realized why, like so many other causes, we walk, run, swim, ride and paddle on behalf of a cure for diabetes. Sure, it's about the money, but it's about so much more.


    The money

    Okay, like I said above, a huge part of it is about the money. A lot of money is being made and contributed to various national and regional diabetes-related groups to either find a cure, or to improve the lives of diabetics.  


    According to the American Diabetes Association's website, the Tour de Cure pulls in millions each year, "Last year, more than 38,000 cyclists in 78 Tour events raised nearly $16 million to support the mission of the ADA: to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes."


    The JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes effort likewise has raised significant sums, reporting that the Walk has raised $90 million and has had 750,000 participants in 200 walks. These monies have gone to support JDRF and its mission to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes through research.


    On a smaller, but no less impressive, scale was the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation and their Grand Canyon Challenge, which, with only eight hikers, was able to raise $32,000 in December 2007 to support diabetes research.


    This money has contributed much to making life easier for diabetics, not to mention putting us, hopefully, closer to someday curing this condition. And the more money that is collected, more can be done.


    The visibility 

  • Once I'd signed up and committed to participating in the JDRF Walk, I came to realize that every time I sent out a letter or email, or even simply "talked up" the event, I was raising the level of awareness about diabetes.

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    This visibility leads to the general public being more aware of diabetes; better understanding the condition and what it means to be diabetic and how diabetics manage their condition; and most importantly, how advances in medicine, nutrition and technology have allowed diabetics to live long, healthy, productive lives. I can't discount that fact that this raised level of awareness may have been a contributing factor to breaking some of the long-standing barriers limiting what people think that diabetics can achieve. Just take a look at the ruling against the FBI and in favor of Jeff Kapche and the nomination of Sonya Sotamayer to the Supreme Court.


    No doubt there's still a ways to go on these fronts, but every little bit helps. And by spreading the word by the grass roots movement methods that these fundraisers deploy, the word gets out one letter, email or phone call at a time, yet snowballs into numbers and a level of visibility and awareness that can make a difference.


    The community

    The biggest benefit of these events that I overlooked is the sense of community that they create. When I arrived at the JDRF Walk site, and saw the hundreds of people who were diabetic, or who support or know a diabetic, and who were all unified to make money to help make a diabetic's life better --hopefully permanently--I finally fully understood the power of being a part of a community who believed in, desired and strove for what I and my family want: a better life for all diabetics and some day soon, a cure.


    It is this sense of community that made me want to find out what other fundraisers I could participate in.


    Something for everyone

    There are fundraisers to fit most interests. Here's a list of those that I came across:


    • Walks: The JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes is the largest and best known walk of this type and has walks scheduled throughout the year in over 200 locations.
    • Rides: Check out both the ADA's Tour de Cure and the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes, which have locations across the country.
    • Hikes: As mentioned above the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation sponsors a two-day hike of the Grand Canyon.
    • Paddles: The Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation is in its second year of running a kayaking race on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
    • Swims:  A regional group, the Diabetes Association of Greater Cleveland, has a swim to raise funds for the cure, self-management and prevention.


    My list, I am sure, is incomplete, and I'd love to hear of more.


    I'll admit that I'm moving beyond my Scroogey side, and am trying to decide if I will ride or paddle (but please, no running) ... or who knows what next year.


Published On: June 11, 2009