Diabetes walk expands, includes interactive course

MILWAUKEE -- Bigger and better. That's how organizers describe this year's Southeastern Wisconsin Diabetes Walk. After moving the walk to Schlitz Park, about 850 people pre-registered for Saturday's walk.

Each walker had their own reason to take part. Leigh Berger finds hers within. Born with Type 1 Diabetes, Berger walked for herself and family members who have also struggled with the disease.

"It is very difficult in a sense," she said. "Not only to be able to control your intake of food, you can't eat like everybody else does."

Although Berger and many others are born diabetic, bad diets and a lack of exercise have caused many to develop Type 2 Diabetes as adults and in some cases, as children.

"Absolutely the trend is going in the wrong direction," said Colleen Kristbaum with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, "We are trying to get the message out as to how folks can step back, take a look at what they're doing with their lifestyles and make some very simple changes."

The American Diabetes Association draws attention to the problem with annual walks across the country. Organizers in Milwaukee wanted to make their event more than a simple stroll. With each step, walkers came upon different stands offering a variety of information about the disease.

"A lot of them have a lot of products that people living with diabetes want to learn about," said Sally Sheperdson, with the Wisconsin ADA chapter, "What's the newest in technology so they can interact with those folks and learn new things to keep them safe and manage their disease."

Berger says the support is overwhelming. But she's most optimistic about the research, funded in part, by events like Saturday's walk.

"The monies here will go quite a lot further in helping cure the disease as opposed to coping, which is what we're doing now," she said.

Throughout the U.S., nearly 26 million people have diabetes. In Wisconsin, that number is about 500,000.