West Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees have been working hard to raise money for the American Diabetes Association (ADA). That effort will culminate this Saturday as six BCBSM teams composed of 69 walkers take part in the ADA’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes.
Grand Rapids BCBSM walkers are rallying at the downtown headquarters at 86 Monroe Center before walking to Rosa Parks Circle on Saturday morning. On site-registration and check-in for the Grand Rapids walk is at 8 a.m. The program is scheduled to start at 9 a.m., with the walk beginning at 9:15 a.m.
One of the Blue Cross teams dub themselves “Marching for Mary” and that’s just what they intend to do on Saturday. The team has a goal to raise $2,000 for this year’s walk, double their goal from last year, which they exceeded, raising $1,077. Mary Scholten is the team’s namesake and the mother of Corrina Scholten, a BCBSM Provider Consultant and team captain.
“She has lived with Type 2 diabetes for over 30 years and has been an inspiration because she has not let this stop her from enjoying life,” Corrina Scholten said. “In the last ten years she has had some issues with her eyesight, but what is amazing about her is that she never gives up. She won’t let this disease stop her from living life.”
Scholten said her mom actively manages her condition, making sure to keep regular doctor checkups and keeping her diet in check.
“She just doesn’t give up and because of that her eyesight has improved,” she said. “I want others to know that this disease does not determine who you are or what you can and can’t do.”
Ed Spang is walking for Mary, but he’s also walking for his mother, Susan Spang. She was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 20 years ago.
“She is legally blind because of it, so while I walk for Mary, I walk for my mom too,” Spang said.
Last year was his first as a walk participant, with his mother joining in. Together they did a shortened version of the course, but this year Spang is committed to walking the full 2.5 miles.
“I’ve made a challenge to myself to do the whole course,” he said.
Due to increasing health complications, Spang’s mom won’t be able to participate in the walk this year. He said he’s sad his mom won’t be there this year, recounting a humorous encounter she had with Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell last year. Susan Spang had stopped for a break and was almost mowed over by the mayor, who was running the course.
“He was very nice about it and apologized,” Spang said.
To avoid his mom’s fate, Spang has changed his eating habits, swapping “fast and tasty” foods for “healthy and prepared.” He’s also been training for the event by walking up and down the city parking lot Grand Rapids BCBSM employees park in.
“I’ll walk because mom can’t, and because I need to do something for myself so I don’t have the same physical limitation,” he said.
As a customer service representative, Spang said one of the calls he receives frequently is from diabetes patients confused about why insulin, which is considered a medication, is covered differently from test strips and glucose meters, which are considered medical supplies.
“It’s one of our more common calls,” he said. “They need help understanding how to get their supplies and what their cost will be, if any.”
For callers who are struggling to cover the cost of those supplies, he often recommends they call their local ADA chapter for help.
In the United States, 29.1 million people, or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes. Of those, 21 million people are diagnosed, while 8.1 go undiagnosed. There’s still time to register for the Grand Rapids walk if you want to help support diabetes awareness and step out to stop the disease.