BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK— A group of about 40 people gathered at the Hilton Garden Inn early Jan. 29 for the Captains Breakfast, hosted by the American Diabetes Association to kick off preparation for the Saratoga Tour de Cure 2015, the Capital Region’s biggest cycling fundraiser.
This is the 25th year of the tour and it will take place at Saratoga High School June 7. Last year it raised $1.3 million, making it the top-ranked Tour de Cure in the state and second out of 90 such events in the United States — only about $50,000 behind first-ranked Napa Valley, California. The Tour features 10-, 25-, 50-, 62.5- and 100-mile routes, which makes the event friendly to experienced cyclists and novices alike.
This breakfast is a time for team captains, especially first-timers, to learn about details of their roles and ways they should prepare for the Tour.
Upon entering the room, guests hit the buffet, which included a plate of fresh fruit plus an assortment of food one might not eat too much of right before a big bike ride: an assortment of bagels, muffins and cheese danish complete with frosting-like swirls of cream cheese on the side, eggs, sausage, bacon, coffee and mini Yoplait yogurts on ice.
They sat down at one of the round tables cloaked in red tablecloths, each with a centerpiece that displayed current, unnerving facts about a disease with potentially devastating impact results — diabetes — that is the disease the tour seeks to cure.
Whether it’s Type 1 or 2 diabetes, it’s a life-altering condition. Type 2 diabetes, the far more common form, is a result of the body losing the ability to use insulin in the proper manner; it becomes resistant. In many cases, this change is due to lifestyle choices.
Type 1 diabetes, referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is more chronic. It is a condition where the body attacks itself and the immune system destroys the islet cells within the pancreas, causing it to produce little or no insulin, a hormone that the body needs to allow sugar to enter the cells to produce energy. The cause of the shutdown of this essential organ is still unknown, but it is linked to genetic background and exposure to certain viruses. Only 5 percent of people who have diabetes have this form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The complications can be serious or even life-threatening, and include heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, cataracts, glaucoma, blindness and poor circulation, which can result in the amputation of a toe, foot or leg because even the tiniest cut can transform into a serious infection.
As people ate, several speakers made their way to the podium.
Jim Masi, chairman of the tour planning committee, kicked the morning off, welcomed the group and told them to ask themselves one simple question: Why am I here today?
At each table setting, there was a sheet to be taken home and filled out in response to that query. Masi instructed everyone to put the finished product on their refrigerator or on their desk at work as a reminder of why they are participating in Tour de Cure 2015 and as a motivator. “We are all collaborating towards the same goal — raising money to find a cure for diabetes,” he said. “Thank you for that.”
Associate Director of the American Diabetes Association Denise Nicastro explained the mission. “Our organization was founded in 1940 with the mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all the people affected with diabetes,” she said. “This year we celebrate 75 years of significant progress towards reaching each of these goals. The major milestone provides an opportunity to build greater awareness of the seriousness of diabetes, which has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and around the world.”
She also described what to expect on Tour day. Teams gather, distribute their jerseys, fuel up with breakfast, line up at the starting line for the various routes, ride the course, listen to cheers as they cross the finish line, smile for team pictures and enjoy being part of a great cause.
Nicastro participated in Tour de Cure as a rider and team captain prior to her involvement with the ADA. Back then she was a fitness instructor at Gold’s Gym, which she still does on a part-time basis. The disease affected no one in her life, but she felt it was a great cause. About six years ago, she became part of the team. “It seemed like a natural transition when the opening came for me to slide into it,” she said. “I was always passionate about the cause.”
Then her 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine months ago.
“Most people go to work for their organization because they are attached to it — they love someone who has it and they go to fight,” Nicastro said. “Mine was just the opposite.”
As Nicastro made her way back to her seat, Stuart Sacks, one of the Red Riders — a rider with diabetes — who has been a participant for the past three years, strode to the front of the room. “I get emotional thinking that all of you guys are here, raising money for something that I have,” he said.“I am a Type 1 diabetic, but I was diagnosed late in life — four years ago. Thank you to everyone here; I’d like to see a cure someday.”
Others spoke to the team captains about various strategies including topics such as the role as team captain, recruiting and growing a team, communicating and engaging with the team, third-party events and fundraising online.
As of the day of the breakfast, $188,476.04 had been raised. This year’s goal is to make it to $1.4 million, surpassing the total raised last year.
Ready, set, pedal!