Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes

October 1, 2015

Our blogger shares his reasons for supporting the American Diabetes Association’s fundraising campaign.

At noon a couple of Sundays ago, I eschewed watching football to take the microphone to give a brief talk at Osetra Fishhouse in downtown San Diego. I felt proud to be part of the Kick-Off for the 2015 San Diego American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. This event is one of the ADA’s two signature fundraisers, along with Tour de Cure.

More than 75 cents of each dollar that the ADA raises from Walks in San Diego and 150 cities across the country goes directly to crucial areas: patient education efforts, area research project funding, advocacy, and a diabetes camp for children, Camp Wana Kura. As I shared during my presentation, the amount of NIH funding for diabetes research is just $1.1 billion annually, or approximately a paltry $38 per American per year with diabetes. We can, and should, do better.

Beyond the facts and figures, to get a better sense of what makes this Walk special, I want to share with you the uplifting story of one of the many people for whom we walk. The tale still inspires me to this day.

Meet Roberto Lopez. A lively 9-year-old diagnosed with type I diabetes at the age of 3, he spoke at the ADA San Diego Step Out Kick-Off party in 2010. Roberto related that at Camp Wana Kura, “I’m glad to be able to feel like a regular kid, and not different.” His mother, Iliana Lopez, was equally compelling. “In a day, our lives changed quickly: from carrying a diaper bag full of toys and baby wipes, we switched to a bag packed with juices, glucose tablets, glucometer, test strips, syringes, and insulin. We carry that backpack everywhere we go -- basketball games, swimming pool, practices, birthday parties, vacations -- I really mean everywhere...From just getting up and going out spontaneously, we now had to plan and check times and schedules around his insulin regimen. From eating whatever, we switched to planned meals. We have lost track of how many times we have poked Roberto’s fingers, how many shots we have given him...for the last seven years. We have had to bargain into switching something high in carbs for something low in carbs because he couldn’t have it at that moment. This is just a part of our daily routine. And we continue to bargain...These camps continuously allow Roberto, along with all the participants, to mix and mingle; they share their everyday challenges and see that they can continue to lead a successful life. We treasure the moments where Roberto can be just a child, without feeling he is the only one caring for his health. As a family, we thank the ADA for sponsoring these opportunities for the children.”

She beamed with pride as she noted that he raised $1000 in just 1 month, all by simply collecting and recycling bottles and cans, with the whole-hearted support of both herself and her husband, Renato. How did Roberto do this? He would leave notes on his neighbors' doors, saying he’d be by every Tuesday to pick up whatever they could leave. The Lopez family gave eloquent voice to why all of the volunteers pour their hearts into months of planning and fundraising. The crowd erupted into hearty applause, and I saw more than one individual dab at their eyes.

If Roberto can do this, without an iPhone full of contacts, but with a tremendous amount of grit and enthusiasm, then just imagine what we can do, individually. Now, imagine the efforts of thousands of such committed individuals. So I call on each of you, please to pitch in. Gather your family, friends, and colleagues, and join your local Step Out Walk or Tour de Cure planning committee; donate; join a team, or form your own. I know that you'll feel a sense of fulfillment that is as profound as it is abiding.

Let’s click the “donate” button. Let’s ask our friends, colleagues, and family for help. Let’s spread the word on diabetes. Let’s lace up those running shoes, and let’s change the world, one step at a time -- for Roberto, and for each of the 29 million Americans living with diabetes.

Author’s Note:

The San Diego Walk will start at 9 AM on Sunday, October 18, 2015. Please visit http://stepout.diabetes.org for more info on a walk in your area.