When Noah Barnes blew out 11 candles on his birthday cake Sunday, he wished for a cure for diabetes.
That’s what he told a crowd of 150 friends, family members and strangers after the group walked in Noah’s March For a Cure 5K, a 5,000-meter walk, early Sunday.
Noah, a resident of Jupiter, Florida, who has Type 1 diabetes, returned to Gainesville for the walk, taking a break from walking across the country to raise awareness for the disease.
Noah and his father, Robert, are three miles away from downtown Atlanta on their way to Blaine, Washington, said Noah’s mother, Joann. The pair originally started in Key West on Jan. 1, but they drove back from Atlanta for the weekend’s 5K.
The purpose of the event was to raise awareness for the resources and research for diabetes at UF, said Carly Barnes, the assistant director of the UF Diabetes Institute, who has no relation to Noah’s family.
“The main goal is to bring people together and make a community around diabetes,” she said.
The walk started in the Commuter Lot at 8:30 a.m. with the sound of a police siren. Families and individuals walked south on Gale Lemerand Drive, turned right onto Mowry Road and circled back around Lake Alice and Flavet Field.
Gina Aulisio, 21, a community health and engagement coordinator at the UF Diabetes Institute, greeted participants after their walk and directed them to the post-run party at the Clinical and Translational Research Building, where Noah celebrated his birthday a day early. She said her mother was diagnosed with diabetes as an adult and still struggles with balancing her blood sugar levels.
“It’s something you constantly have to be thinking about,” the UF health education senior said.
Vendors at the post-run party offered participants fruits and other healthy snacks. Free screenings for diabetes, funded by the National Institute of Health, were offered to family members of anyone who has been diagnosed. The UF Diabetes Institute gave out prizes and birthday cake.
Dr. Desmond Schatz and Dr. Todd Brusko, who work with the UF Diabetes Institute, said the disease needs greater national attention.
“For all of us who take care of diabetes patients, this is 24 hours,” Schatz said. “There is no vacation.”
Noah is meeting with Georgia’s governor and the American Diabetes Association this week. He said he is enjoying his hike.
“I get to meet interesting people and see awesome stuff,” Noah said. “My life is awesome now.”
Contact Meryl Kornfield at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @MerylKornfield
Noah Barnes, 10, carries his 8-year-old brother Jon at Active Streets Gainesville. Noah stopped in Gainesville on his yearlong march from Key West to Blaine, Washington, to promote diabetes awareness.