Howard Beach walk helps diabetes research

For the sixth year in a row, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) took its fight against juvenile diabetes to Howard Beach and raised nearly $75,000 in the process.

Now, the group said it would return the favor.

The May 31 6th JDRF Howard Beach Walk to Cure Diabetes drew hundreds in the foundation’s ongoing efforts to combat diabetes, organizers said. The group, established in 1970, said it would use the money to help fund research, according to Jessica Burns, development coordinator at JDRF.

A letter was sent out the beginning of June thanking all participants in the Howard Beach Walk and said JDRF agreed to sponsor more than $530 million in research around the world because of the generosity of local supporters.

Burns announced two additional walks organized for the same cause, including a Queens Walk on Oct. 5 in Flushing Meadows Park and another on the same day in Staten Island starting at 8:30 a.m.

Juvenile diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to get energy from food, according to JDRF. Also known as type-1 diabetes, the disease affects both children and adults and lasts a lifetime.

Joe DeCandia, a JDRF New York chapter board member, said he kept up the fight for his 14-year-old son, who has type-1 diabetes. DeCandia referred to the ongoing fight as a worthwhile cause that he hopes can help contribute to finding a cure.

“The Howard Beach walk netted approximately $500,000 over the past six years,” DeCandia said. “The money raised at these events goes to facilities that help children, like St. Jude and the Ronald McDonald House. This Queens walk is a main event to raise money locally and my wife and I are thrilled to participate. I believe in our lifetime we will see a cure for this.”

Joe Mure, another board member, said each of these local events came at no expense to the organization and funneled all money directly to research efforts.

“None of these events would be possible if it wasn’t for people in our neighborhood,” Mure said. “Research is moving rapidly now over the last few years because of money raised due to successful neighborhood events.”

According to Mure, there are two exciting types of treatments that are being spearheaded by JDRF and are currently in the trial stage. One is the artificial pancreas, where a small machine attaches to the body with an insulin pump and can stay on 24 hours a day, he said. The other is called encapsulation, which is an implantable device that provides beta cell replacement and restores insulin independence without the need for intensive immune suppression, Mure said.

“Pancreatic transplants are rare and some are not successful,” Mure said. “The insulin used today is much better than 20 years ago, but it does not work fast enough and scientists are working on ways to speed up absorption.”

Restoration is a biologic cure for type-1 diabetes that JDRF is still working on, according to the group’s fact sheet. With this treatment, the body’s cell function is restored and the autoimmune attack is halted.

Another research plan JDRF is looking into is called smart insulin, which circulates in the bloodstream and turns on when needed, the sheet said.

Since JDRF’s founding in 1970, its cumulative research funding totaled over $1.8 billion, which has gone on to fund over 50 human clinical trials.

Mure said another huge fundraiser was scheduled for Dec. 6 at 6 p,m. The event, dubbed “Little North Pole,” first started 19 years ago at 144-03 Neponsit Ave. in Rockaway and has not stopped since.

“The yearly fundraiser draws thousands of people and a huge amount is raised for JDRF. It’s really a fun, seasonal event,” Mure said. “I am very excited about all the advancements, and eventually, a cure for type-1 diabetes.”

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By Debbie Cohen


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