Searching for a cure one step at a time

A little bipedal motion – otherwise known as walking – can go a long way during next month’s South Sound Walk To Cure Diabetes.

The event, a 5-mile walking tour of Point Defiance Park, is being conducted by and benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the world’s leading nonprofit, non-governmental funder of diabetes research.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation deals mostly with Type I (juvenile) diabetes, as opposed to Type II (adult-onset) diabetes.

“Most of our focus goes toward children with diabetes,” event coordinator Kerry Smyth said.

To stay alive, those with Type I diabetes must take multiple insulin injections daily and test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day, she noted, which is not an easy thing for children to do.

The South Sound Walk To Cure Diabetes grew out of a similar event in Seattle over the last 20 years, and moved south, Smyth explained, culminating in the Tacoma event five years ago.

Since then, it has grown into one of the largest fund-raisers in the South Sound.

“It’s just been met with such enthusiasm,” Smyth said, referring to the positive reaction the event has received in Tacoma. “It’s refreshing to see a community that is so close, so tight-knit.”

Over 1,000 people took part in last year’s South Sound Walk, raising over $162,000 for diabetes research.

This year, officials hope to attract at least 1,500 participants, with a fund-raising goal of $200,000.

“It’s kind of going gangbusters,” Smyth said. “So, it’s steadily been rising.”

Nationwide, over $69 million was raised through the Walk To Cure Diabetes program.

This year, the Walk To Cure Diabetes is expected to surpass $78 million.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Northwest, based in Seattle, is the regional branch – covering the northwestern United States – of the international organization.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund was founded in 1970 by parents of children with juvenile diabetes.

It has 93 chapters and affiliates worldwide and has helped to raise more than $500 million for diabetes research.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund is one of the most cost-efficient non-profit agencies in the country, with 85 cents of every dollar raised going straight to research and education.

Sixteen million Americans are afflicted with diabetes, including 266,000 in Washington state alone.

Worldwide, diabetes afflicts up to 140 million people, and the World Health Organization estimates the number will more than double by 2025.

The walk takes place on Saturday morning, May 4. Pledge turn-in and registration begins at 7:30 a.m. on the day of the South Sound Walk To Cure Diabetes, with the 5-mile walk starting at 9 a.m. Post walk activities will take place at 11 a.m. and include a 50s-60s band, food and face-painting for children.

Donations to the Walk can be sent to: c/o South Sound Walk, JDRF Northwest, 1200 6th Ave, Suite 605, Seattle WA 98101.

People can also help by volunteering, Smyth said.

To contact the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Northwest, please call 206/ 838-5153.

For more information, call 800-533-CURE, or visit the organization’s Web site at:

“Every day we get closer to a cure,” Smyth said.


TYPE I (JUVENILE) DIABETES: This disease occurs when a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not caused by obesity or by eating excessive sugar, which are two common myths about the disease.

Insulin is not a cure and it doesn’t prevent the disease’s devastating effects, such as kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputation, heart attack and stroke.

Despite rigorous attention to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise regimen and, of course, injections of the proper amounts of insulin, many other factors can adversely affect a person’s blood sugar control, including stress, hormonal changes, periods of growth, physical activity, medications, illness/infection and fatigue.

About one million Americans have this form of diabetes.

TYPE II (ADULT-ONSET) DIABETES: This disease affects the body’s ability to break down and absorb sugars. This type of diabetes represents up to 95 percent of all diabetics.

Some people with Type II diabetes have to take insulin, while others manage to control their blood sugar through healthy eating and regular exercise. Undetected and uncontrolled, this form of diabetes can have serious side effects such as blindness, heart disease, nerve disease and kidney failure.

About 15 million Americans have Type II diabetes.