How ADA's Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes Inspires a Family and a Company
When David Allen, 53, gave the eulogy at his father's funeral last year, he asked family and friends to do more than just remember Elliot Allen: He challenged them to continue the fight against diabetes to which his dad, a life insurance agent in Longmeadow, Mass., had dedicated much of his life.
The result was a record turnout for the American Diabetes Association Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes in Springfield, Mass. Elliot Allen spent hundreds of hours over more than 25 years promoting Step Out by asking friends, family, coworkers, and even people he met on the street to make donations to his team. He always carried donation receipts in his pocket, just in case. His dedication stemmed from seeing the effects of diabetes in his own family: His daughter, Brenda, who had type 1, battled complications most of her life. Brenda was an elementary school librarian who had worked for the West Springfield schools for 24 years. Her younger brother, Matthew, 45, donated one of his kidneys to Brenda in 1989, three months before his wedding.
Brenda died from complications of diabetes in 2007 at the age of 55. Not long afterward, Elliot Allen lost his battle with cancer at 84. "Losing Elliot and Brenda in three months was a crippling blow, and it made [his sons] Matt and David more committed … to having a huge success at the walk," says Barry Allen, Elliot Allen's nephew and the captain of Elliot's Team in the walk. Adds David Allen: "When you see that and know that your dad's not there but that you fulfilled his wish … it's a sad moment, but one that I'm very proud of."
In Elliot and Brenda Allen's memory, the family set an unprecedented fund-raising goal of $35,000 for Elliot's Team in 2008. Ambitious, yes, but in the end the Allens raised more than $54,000. David, Barry, and Matthew Allen credit Elliot Allen's longtime dedication to Step Out. "He was the energy behind what the family is doing now," says Barry Allen. "Anyone who met him came away feeling that they met someone special." This year the walk will be held in Northampton, Mass., on September 27, and the Allen family plans to beat its 2008 fund-raising total.
Step Out also presents an opportunity for people who care about diabetes to share that passion with people they see at work everyday. At places like MannKind Corp., a biopharmaceutical company based in Valencia, Calif., that focuses on the discovery and development of therapeutic products for diabetes and cancer, the event brings colleagues together.
Pat Compton, 62, a MannKind quality assurance training associate and captain of Team MannKind, says the Fairfield, Conn., Step Out walk has become an important part of the company culture. (MannKind has a production facility in nearby Danbury, Conn.) "Almost everybody gets involved; everybody talks about it, everybody makes a contribution–whether they walk or not," Compton says. She and her Step Out teammates spread awareness of the walk at staff meetings and company events.
MannKind's Step Out team in Connecticut raised about $15,000 last year, and the company was a sponsor of that walk as well. MannKind also participated in walks in California and New Jersey. For the upcoming Fairfield County walk on Sunday, October 4, at New Canaan High School, Team MannKind has set a fund-raising goal of $20,000.
Some employees have rallied around Step Out because of experiences with diabetes in their personal lives. For Juergen Martens, MannKind's corporate vice president of operations and chief technology officer, Step Out is a way to honor his grandmother. "I was raised in large part by my grandmother, and she died at the age of 72 of diabetes," he says.
Martens says that his coworkers' involvement in Step Out has impressed him since he began working at MannKind in 2005. "Nothing motivates people more than being engaged in a community that helps people," Martens says. "It ... is a great win for all."f the company cultur. (MannKind has a production facility in nearby Danbury, Conn.) "Almost everybody gets involved; everybody talks about it, everybody makes a contribution–whether they walk or not," Compton says. She and her Step Out teammates spread awareness of the walk at staff meetings and company events. MannKind's Step Out team in Connecticut raised about $15,000 last year, and the company was a sponsor of that walk as well.
Event Gear Online at ADA Store
Are you planning to participate in Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes, Tour de Cure, or another ADA event? Visit shopdiabetes.org, where you can order customized embroidered team shirts in quantities from one to 1,000. Select the shirt style you prefer, then choose your logo and wording at checkout. The apparel and gift
shop also has new gear including polo shirts, hats, and specialty items for all ages.