Step Out 2008
A Walk to Remember
Tents were collapsing to the ground and crowds were dispersing as Luisa Vanlow finally completed the 5-mile walk through New York City's Riverside Park that sunny October day. It was 2001, and Vanlow, 56, had been participating in the American Diabetes Association's annual "Step Out" fundraiser since she was diagnosed with diabetes 18 years earlier. She'd had trouble keeping her blood glucose under control, and now she had neuropathy, which slowed her down, but it didn't stop her from taking part in the event. Her husband, Sydney, was walking, too. He turned around at the finish line so that he and their daughter, Natalia Young, could accompany Vanlow along the final steps of the walk.
Just a couple of months later, Young received a photo of that emotional moment, when her mother crossed the finish line. It was December 3. Luisa Vanlow had passed away earlier that day.
Throughout the month of October, Natalia Young and more than 100,000 other people will be raising an expected $20 million—or more—at approximately 180 Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes events. Some walk because of their own diabetes; some because of a family member or friend. All too many walk to remember loved ones.
Take, for instance, the Di Salvo family of New York City. Joseph P. Di Salvo died from complications of diabetes in the summer of 2006. Since then, his entire family has joined the ranks at Step Out, making this huge event into an intimate family affair.
"I want to make it as much a celebration of him and his life as a fundraising vehicle," says son Joe Di Salvo. "People genuinely look forward to the celebration of the man and the cause." This will be the Di Salvos' third year at the New York walk. They usually start early in the morning at the event site, drinking coffee and trying to stay warm. After the walk they end up at a local restaurant, where the Joseph P. Di Salvo team and friends—about 30 people—share their stories.
In Lubbock, Texas, meanwhile, Ric Kissinger walks for the living. Kissinger, vice president of technical services at Atmos Energy, a natural-gas distributor, captains his company's team. "My daughter's diabetic, so I felt like it was a real blessing that we had the opportunity to get involved," he says.
Beyond their walk participation, Kissinger's teams have raised significant funds over the years through a wide array of events, from rummage sales and online auctions to cookouts at Home Depot and an annual skeet shooting event called "Shoot for a Cure." He and his 11-year-old daughter Hannah—a Step Out youth ambassador for the Lubbock walk—also visit nearby schools to spread the word about diabetes. Kissinger says he has forged bonds with coworkers who have diabetes or whose family members have it. "The big thing is getting everyone involved and energized," he says. "It's all about keeping up motivation."
Natalia Young, meanwhile, now leads her own Step Out team, the "Diabetes Fighters." But she too has found other ways to volunteer with the ADA—from participation on other teams to walk planning and logistics, as well as sponsorship and awareness campaigns. It all helps her keep the memory of her mother alive. "I try to keep my mother's legacy going," she says, "and continue to really inform people about diabetes."
How to get involved
There are three ways to join Step OUT: Walk to Fight Diabetes today:
- visit www.diabetes.org/stepout.
- Call 1-888-DIABETES.
- Contact your local ADA office about joining a nearby walk.