Walk Season kicked off in Houston on June 11 with JDRF’s Annual Family Team Rally. Families from all across the Houston Metro Area came together to learn the ins and outs of JDRF’s new and improved online registration and fundraising system, to share innovative fundraising strategies and to spend time playing and dining with old friends. Toddlers, teens, young adults and parents brought suggestions for adding fun and convenience to the upcoming Walk, and the JDRF Staff eagerly absorbed all comments. The energy in the air was unmistakable. Even in the hundred degree heat, we could all feel the excitement of fall Walk season. After the Rally, on the long drive home, I found myself thinking about the Walk, and the weeks and months leading up to it, wondering what makes it so special? What is it that gives us that little shiver, that extra burst of energy, that feeling of exhilaration?
It certainly doesn’t happen because the Walk is easy. Walk season is a lot of work. You write letters, send emails, design t-shirts, send follow-up emails, order tents and chairs, plan breakfast, arrive early, keep track of your kids, write thank-you notes, and collapse in a heap when it’s all over. A part of the thrill is the knowledge of the good that comes from what we do. Houston’s 2010 Walk raised $1.9 Million. And of that amount, a record-breaking $636,600 was raised by family teams. We know that 80% of JDRF’s expenditures go directly to research and research-related education. So we know that we are making a tremendous contribution to JDRF’s progress toward curing diabetes.
But it’s more than numbers—this thrill of the Walk. I think it has to do with the enormous scope of the community we build. Last year, before the actual Walk started, I positioned myself atop a concrete block at the START LINE so that I could see the Walkers head out. When the ribbon came down and the Walkers started to move, the sight quite literally made me choke up. There was a pulsing sea of people that went on, and on, and on. Only the front of the sea moved at first, then the middle began to ooze forward, followed much later by the far ends. But just when I thought I had seen the back edge, more Walkers appeared. It was close to an hour before the last Walker crossed the START LINE. And I realized that I had been both grinning and crying the whole time. Fifteen thousand people came to Reliant Park last year. Fifteen thousand people Walked to cure diabetes. And after they walked, they stayed and ate, and played, and listened to music, and enjoyed being a part of a community that cared about changing the lives of people with diabetes.
I think that so much of having diabetes—or having a child or a spouse with diabetes—is endured alone. The 2 a.m. test is done alone and in the dark. The decision about how much to bolus is made alone and warily. The glucagon shot is administered alone and consumed with fear. The waiting to see if the teenager with type 1 makes it home safely is done alone. So the fact that this one day—Walk Day—is lived as a part of an enormous community, some of whom are dear friends, but many of whom are strangers who happen to be generous and caring people, can make chills run up and down our spines. It’s easy, and often necessary if we love someone with diabetes, to cordon off our feelings about the disease in order to continue to live a positive and upbeat life. Healthy defenses are just that—healthy. The wonder of Walk Day is that it is the one day when we can safely allow those defenses to drop just a bit, knowing that the support, courage, inspiration, togetherness and love that pours in will leave us stronger and more hopeful than we were before.
Who among us doesn’t need a little dose of that?