YONKERS, N.Y. – Hundreds hit the racetrack Sunday in Yonkers and together took a small step forward in the fight against juvenile diabetes.
More than 2,500 residents from Westchester and the New York City area paced around the dirt track at Empire City Casino’s Yonkers Raceway in a morning "Walk to Cure Diabetes."
“This is a great event and we just wanted to come out and try to raise as much money as possible to find a cure,” said Yorktown resident Jason Patane, whose 6-year-old son Gavin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. “It’s great to see so many people helping out.”
Under cloudy skies and brisk temperatures, supporters lined up behind the starting gate at 10 a.m. before circling the track. The two-hour event was part of a nationwide effort to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in hopes of finding a cure for the chronic disease and its complications.
“This is something that many people are dealing with on a daily basis and only with events like this is it going to get solved,” Irvington resident Scott Zilack said as the event began.
Every year about 13,000 children nationwide are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, according to the JDRF. The disease occurs when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.
There is no cure and children don’t outgrow the disease, which can affect many major organs including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. While individuals afflicted with Type 1 diabetes typically can live active and healthy lives with insulin injections, advocates say there is much more work to be done.
“Insulin is not a cure, merely life support for the estimated 3 million Americans suffering from Type 1 diabetes and its complications,” said JDRF Executive Director Rebecca Santoli. “Research is the only answer.”
Yorktown Heights resident Evan Gelick, 44, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 6 years old. Now, his daughter, 10-year-old Olivia, has also been diagnosed with the disease.
Gelick said the family has to carefully monitor both his and his daughter’s blood sugar levels and administer as many as six insulin injections each day.
“It gets in the way of living a normal life,” said Gelick, part of the 30-member “Team Olivia,” that has helped raise more than $100,000 over the years for research.