Step Out's Joy Rockwell Walks On
Volunteer Joy Rockwell has been walking to raise funds for diabetes research for more than 15 years.
Joy Rockwell participated in her first Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® to prove she could walk again. Fifteen years later, she continues because her late husband no longer can.
Rockwell, of Johnstown, Ohio, first took part in what was then called America's Walk for Diabetes to test herself against the odds. One of her feet had been nearly severed in a car accident, and doctors told her she probably would never walk again. That she and her husband, Butch, who had type 2 diabetes, could raise money for the American Diabetes Association was just a bonus. In 1997, after months of training, the Rockwells completed the Columbus walk—without crutches.
Over the next few years, the Rockwells continued to push themselves to go farther, covering more ground and raising more funds for the ADA. But in 2003, Butch died as the result of a diabetes-related heart attack. He was 54 years old. "October came and I said to my kids, 'I feel like we really need to do the walk for diabetes,' " Joy Rockwell remembers. "We had 24 people who walked with me that year for emotional support." Donations poured in as well. Rockwell raised $27,300 that year, and the Columbus Step Out event was renamed The Butch Rockwell Memorial Walk.
In the years since, Rockwell has raised more than $171,000, walking every year with her adult children, Tricia Dean and Chad Rockwell. She says what was once a bonding experience with her husband has become her passion to find a cure for diabetes, so others don't suffer a loss like she and her family experienced. She shares her story with members of her church and people she meets. "I'm a champion for the cure. That's me," she says. "I just hope that one of those dollars I raise is one of those in the bucket that helps to find a cure."
Rockwell's efforts have been recognized by the ADA. In 1999, she received a national award for outstanding service. And her example has inspired other volunteers, says Erin White, the ADA's manager of fund-raising and special events in Columbus. Her outreach sets a benchmark for others. "This is really her passion," White says. "If there were a million Joy Rockwells in the world, it would be an amazing place."