On Saturday morning, the JDRF held its One Walk event in downtown Tampa, one of 200 such walks the organization conducts annually in its efforts to wipe out type 1 diabetes. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, who is passionate about the cause, took part in the event, though not exactly in the way its name suggests.
Instead, Winston chose to run the three-mile course, which started at Amalie Arena and stretched out along Bayshore Drive. There was a driving force in his decision to attack the walk with gusto: his grandmother, Myrtle Winston, who passed away late last month. Myrtle Winston suffered from type 2 diabetes.
"I had a passion behind it," said Winston of the walking course he turned into a running path. "It was for my grandmother and it was for this cause. Next year, I probably won't run. But I know this year I gave it my all, and I did it for a great reason. I'm here to support JDRF. We have to get from type 1 to 'Type None,' and I'll do whatever I can to help – whether it's running or throwing touchdown passes or even wearing blue cleats in a game. We're just trying to get this thing to zero for these kids, for their families and for the world."
The JDRF One Walk in Tampa has raised over half a million dollars, and more than 900,000 people take part in these events across the country. Winston, who has participated in the Tampa walk two years in a row, personally raised funds for this year's events and also took to the stage to offer encouraging words to walk participants on Saturday morning.
Type 1 diabetes was originally known as juvenile diabetes, before it was widely known that the disease can strike adults as well. Similarly, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, founded 45 years ago, changed its name to JDRF to acknowledge that type 1 diabetes is not just a children's disease. Of course, it can be particularly stressful for kids and their families, and it is estimated that 80.000 children develop the disease each year. There is no known prevention or cure – though the JDRF is fighting to change that – and it is not brought on by diet or lifestyle.
In addition to his love for his late grandmother, Winston also has a passion for helping children.
"My grandmother had Type 2 Diabetes and she just passed two Saturday's ago, so I just wanted to dedicate this one to her," said Winston. "That's what my passion for diabetes [awareness] is. I'm so thankful that I'm welcome here and I get a chance to be a face for JDRF. These kids are so challenged by having a disease at such a young age. I don't know what they're going through. Ultimately, I'm here to help turn type 1 into Type None."
The JDRF has raised more than $2 billion to help fight type 1 diabetes, its singular focus. Those funds are used to spur scientific research and academic partnerships. While a cure remains elusive, research funded by the JDRF has led to important breakthroughs in terms of treatments and therapies, helping those with the disease to manage it and live longer, healthier lives.