When Scott Owens’ son, Matthew, 24, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 12 years ago, he knew he had to do something to spread awareness about the disease.
Owens is a founding member with People Centre’d on Diabetes — a local organization with a mission to promote diabetes awareness and wellness in the community.
On Thursday afternoon, World Diabetes Day, Owens took his efforts one step further with the State College Area School District’s Delta Program students and staff with the Million Step Walk project — a 2-mile walk through downtown State College to spread awareness and promote wellness. His goal is to also get other organizations to do similar programs.
Diabetes typically breaks down into two categories. Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that the organ secretes that helps regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in blood. In Type 1 diabetics, the person’s immune system is attacking and destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 sufferers must take insulin to survive.
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In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still produces insulin. However, either the quantity is not enough to reduce blood glucose or the body is building a resistance to insulin from overproduction to to dietary factors. Type 2 diabetics can, however, gain some measure of control over their illness with changes in diet and exercise regimens.
“Some diabetes can be controlled,” said Owens, Delta Program’s student assistance program chairman. “The statistic are mind-blowing, and I think it’s our job to spread awareness about it.”
Owens said one in every 12 people worldwide are diagnosed with diabetes.
Six weeks ago, Owens went to the Delta Program’s staff to set up the walk as part of a larger local initiative sponsored by People Centre’d on Diabetes. With support, Owens was able to start the event he hopes will become an annual activity.
The walk began at the Delta Program’s facility, 154 W. Nittany Ave., and looped around downtown State College.
“People can take small steps by walking and keeping up their health,” Owens said.
About 170 students and staff participated in the walk wearing shirts signifying diabetes awareness. The theme of the walk was called “Take It On.”
Cassie Schaad, 17, said diabetes runs in her family. Both her father and 19-year-old brother, Connor, have Type 1.
“It really hits home to me because I’ve seen this in my family,” she said. “It’s important to give back, and it’s uplifting that the Delta Program can be a part of something like this.”