South Charlotte resident works to stop diabetes

People walk during last year’s event. This year’s event in SouthPark looks to raise $300,000 to help the prevention of and education about diabetes.

The Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes takes place in SouthPark on Saturday, Nov. 3, and one south Charlotte volunteer is hoping the event he’s put so much effort into will be a success again this year.

Ballantyne resident John Watkins started working with the Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes about six years ago. He’s now an event board member who helps plan and prepare for the annual walk.

Before being asked to join the American Diabetes Association (ADA) board for the walk, Watkins – who has many family members who have been diagnosed with diabetes – participated in the Walk to Stop Diabetes first with Bank of America then with Wachovia, now Wells Fargo. Now, he leads his own team, 100 Black Men and Friends, through the organization 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte.

Organizers hope the walk, which will be held at Symphony Park near SouthPark Mall, will raise $300,000 to go toward prevention and education for the disease.  As of Monday, Oct. 29, the ADA raised $144,602, has 146 teams and 875 volunteers participating in the event.  Registration starts Saturday at 9 a.m. and the race will kick off at 10 a.m.

Most of the money raised goes to the ADA, with 76 percent going directly to educational programs and research focused on finding a cure.

With 26 million people in the U.S. – more than those affected by breast cancer and AIDS combined – and 165,000 people in Charlotte being affected by diabetes, Watkins and those who work with him feel events like this are vitally important to those in the community.

But the disease hits a strong personal note with Watkins and the members of 100 Black Men.

“Although diabetes is a disease that seems to be growing across the communities, in the African-American community it is more devastating,” Watkins said. “We see it when we talk to the members and ask the boys how many of them have a person in their family who is affected by this disease.”

Watkins’s mother, father, sister and many other family members have been diagnosed with diabetes.

According to the ADA, 8.3 percent of Americans have diabetes and 25 percent who have it are not aware of their condition. If it goes untreated, diabetes can lead to heart disease, blindness, amputations, kidney failure and more.

“One of the keys that we understand is that it is a preventable disease, especially Type II,” Watkins said. “We want to get the word out to the community for lifestyle changes.”

About 70 to 100 members of 100 Black Men will walk in the event, including mentors and mentees.  The organization chose to participate in this event to better educate their mentees of the effects diabetes can have on their bodies and those around them.

“One of the models of the 100 Black Men is ‘What they see is what they will be.’  So we hope that by us participating in the diabetes walk, the boys will see that this is an important cause, and by extension their parents and relatives will make lifestyle changes as well,” Watkins said.

Watkins’ walk group already passed itsgoal of collecting $3,000. Members hope to see more money raised to support the cause.

To donate to the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte’s team go to http://main.diabetes.org and search the walk page.

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