Walkers for a cure

Thursday, October 13, 2011

As many as three million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, and more than 80 people each day are diagnosed with the disease.

Dr. Kima Stewart holds her daugher Savannah's diabetes tee- shirt.

Type 1 diabetes is a viral-induced illness that strikes children and adults suddenly and requires multiple injections of insulin daily. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent the complications involved with the disease.

However, breakthroughs are on the horizon as research for a cure is in the clinical trial stage. Finding a cure for diabetes would be the equivalent of the breakthrough with the Salk vaccine for the prevention of polio.

Continued research is costly, and fundraising has become vital. Walks are being planned throughout America to partner with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to finance the cure for diabetes and see victory in our lifetime.

JDRF will hold its first Northeast Arkansas Walk to Cure Diabetes Saturday, Oct. 15, in historic downtown Jonesboro. The 5k walk will begin with registration at the corner of Main and Washington Streets at 7:30 a.m. Corporate sponsors of the event will provide activities for kids, hot dogs, ice cream, inflatable bouncers and other forms of entertainment.

There is not cost for taking part in the walk or the festivities. The mission of JDRF is "to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research and research-related education."

Area companies, families and individuals are pledging their support to this effort in many different ways. Companies can support the event by serving as a sponsor or by forming walk teams made up of employees and their families and friends.

Individuals and families are getting involved by forming teams of walkers to supply the backbone of dedication as active volunteers. The walk draws people together in a healthy activity for a worthy cause.

Dr. Kima Stewart, director of BIC Elementary Education, and her family have formed "Stewart's Walkers," a team that will be walking in the Jonesboro event.

"Our daughter Savanah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 18, during her senior year at BIC," Stewart said. "As relieved as we were to know why she was so sick, we were uninformed about what to do to control diabetes. We all soon learned and are now interested in educating ourselves about every aspect of the disease, its control, research and how we can help. We have all come to truly value our health.

"Savanah has been very courageous when it comes to dealing with diabetes," Stewart said. "Many people close to her are not even aware she has it. She is determined not to let diabetes define who she is. She is very active and involved at Arkansas State University and doesn't shy away from any activity. She is a senior chemistry major and will graduate in May of 2012. She has worked for the Arkansas Dental Clinic in Jonesboro for the past year and plans to attend dental school following graduation.

"People never get to take a day off from being a diabetic," Stewart continued. "The first and last thing they do every day is take a blood check. Many people are squeamish about having to take a shot or give blood, but people with diabetes have a minimum of 35 finger pricks a week, plus 28 insulin shots."

Dr. Stewart used Savanah's t-shirt from the 2010 Walk to Cure Diabetes in Little Rock to make a visual point about finger pricks and shots. She attached 35 small pins to the shirt to represent the finger pricks and 28 larger pins to represent the insulin shots, which represent a week's minimum activity.

"Savanah is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta fraternity at ASU and was pleasantly surprised to find that one of its philanthropic projects was JDRF," Dr. Stewart said.

BIC West Elementary Students in Monette will be selling gum passes Oct. 14 as a fundraiser for JDRF. The winning student will be allowed to chew sugarfree gum all day on the gum-free campus. Funds from the project will be donated to JDRF in the names of the two elementary students with diabetes who are enrolled at BIC West.

Walks for the cure of diabetes are held in Memphis and Little Rock annually, and now Jonesboro can add its name to the list of growing supporters. The numbers of people connected with diabetes nationwide are astonishing. The hope is that a JDRF office will be located in Jonesboro in the near future.

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