Thursday, 30 members of the JDRF Palmetto Chapter will head for Florida for the inaugural Amelia Island Ride to Cure Diabetes. They’ll be joined by a man who has made similar rides the center of his life.
Kent Schnakenberg knew very little about type 1 diabetes as recently as three years ago, but in the last two years has personally raised more than $200,000 to help fund advancements in treatment and the search for a cure. What he did know was that he’d reached a milestone in his life and was determined to find a way to help others.
“I was getting ready to turn 60 years old and I decided I needed to tell my wife I’m going to change the world,” he said. “I needed a cause.” His niece has type 1, and he chose to begin learning about the disease, and that led to his agreeing to participate in one of the Ride to Cure Diabetes events in 2014. He won the Spirit Jersey there, an award given to a rider who exemplifies the spirit and purpose of the event. He was asked to give a speech to the other participants, and on the spur of the moment made a life-changing promise.
“I got up in front of 400 people and looked them in the eyes and I said ‘All right, next year I’m going to do all seven'” of the Ride to Cure Diabetes events around the country. “I just decided I was going to spread the word, drive around the country and do the rides.”
With that, Team Schnak was born. Schnakenberg bought a truck, had it decorated for the cause, and launched his tour, driving to 47 states in 2015 and appearing at all seven races. He is in the midst of doing the same in 2016, and visited Freehub Bicycles in Lexington Sunday on his way from a ride in Greenville to Amelia Island. He rides up to 100 miles in some (despite never having done a bicycle race before 2014), but the point is not speed or distance but awareness.
In Greenville, he explained, he rode just 15 miles, because four first-time riders, all mothers of children with type 1, were nervous and he joined them to keep them company. “They finished and they were excited and I couldn’t have been any happier if I’d done 80 miles.”
That mission is shared by the others who ride to cure diabetes. “Kent is an amazing man who cares deeply about raising the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes so that no other family has to bury a child from a missed diagnosis,” said Beth McCrary, development coordinator for the JDRF Palmetto Chapter.
McCrary and her daughter Hannah will be among those going to ride at Amelia Island. It will be the first ride for Hannah, who has type 1. The event will be very much a family affair, with father/daughter team Johnny and Anna Felder also participating, along with mother/daughter Stephanie and Michelle Griffen, four members of the DiCarlo family, and several couples.
The Palmetto Chapter has already raised more than $67,000 for the ride, with donations still being accepted. “When I met with [Palmetto Chapter Executive Director] Kevin Simmons and your board last year, I knew there was something special about this place,” Schnakenberg said Sunday. “I’m so proud of your chapter.”
McCrary said recent developments, particularly the recent FDA approval of the first automated insulin delivery system, make it clear that the efforts of Schnakenberg, the other riders, and all who support the JDRF are paying off. “We can absolutely do this,” she said.
More information on the JDRF Palmetto Chapter, including resources for those living with type 1 diabetes and ways to support the efforts to beat the disease, is available here.