Hundreds hoping for a cure for diabetes put their passion on wheels Saturday, riding in Columbia’s annual Tour de Cure bike races to support the American Diabetes Association.
More than 400 riders raised more than $140,000 to go toward treatment and research of the disease that affects more than 360,000 people in South Carolina alone.
Just as important as the fundraising, organizers and participants hoped to draw attention to the disease that can go unnoticed and can have dire consequences, from blindness to amputations, if untreated or mismanaged.
“It’s life-changing when people are diagnosed with diabetes,” said Christina Bickley, associate director of the S.C. American Diabetes Association. “Whether they’re young and get diagnosed with Type I, or Type II later in life, because it means changing your entire lifestyle, eating habits, exercising, monitoring your blood glucose continuously. So it’s never ending.”
The event offered several courses of different lengths, all beginning and ending at downtown’s historic Robert Mills House.
Phil Hatcher, a 43-year-old from Lugoff, represented everything the Tour was about.
Hatcher has lived with Type I diabetes since he was 10 years old. For 33 years, he has known how important it is for him to manage his health carefully.
“I was always told don’t let diabetes keep you from doing anything you want to do,” Hatcher said.
A life-long athlete who played football for Charleston Southern University and is now an avid cyclist, Hatcher is passing on his healthy lifestyle to his 7- and 9-year-old sons. Saturday was Hatcher’s third time riding in the event but his first time riding with one of his sons, the youngest.
James Gilmore, the state’s regional general manager for Walmart, represented nearly 200 Walmart associates who came from around the state to volunteer, ride and help raise thousands of dollars for the event.
“We know how big of an impact diabetes has on people all over the country, but especially in the South and in our state,” Gilmore said. “This is such a big cause. I know for me, personally, we have diabetes in our family. And as I’ve talked to our associates, so many of them are here because either they personally or a spouse or family member is impacted.”
They included people such as Dre Kemp, a 21-year-old who has family members living with diabetes. Kemp works at a Greenville Walmart store that raised nearly $600 before the event.
On Saturday, Kemp and others logged miles on stationary bikes near the road races’ start/finish line. In an hour and a half, he had pedaled 30 miles and had no plans for stopping any time soon.
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.