LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Seth Woolf was a promising 22-year-old law student when he died from complications of diabetes, a disease he had coped with since he was 4.
"He was an outstanding kid," said his mother, Laurie Lachowitzer, who honors his memory by participating in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual walk, the organization's main fundraiser. On Saturday, about 800 people joined Lachowitzer on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch to raise money to fight diabetes. This is the Foundation's 18th annual walk, and the second in Lakewood Ranch.
The walk used to be held on Siesta Key. "It was well-received, but it got too big," said Taso Milomas, a member of the JDRF board of directors.
Sarah Owen, an administrative assistant for the JDRF, says Lakewood Ranch is a good fit. "There's plenty of parking and it's dog-friendly," which was an issue at the beach in Siesta Key.
By all accounts, the fundraising was going well. "We had 760 walkers -- and a lot of walk-ups," Owen said at the registration table. That translates into $136,000 before the walk even began. "That's 65 percent of our goal right there," she said.
The walkers wound through Lakewood Ranch, ending back at Main Street for a street party, complete with music and lunch.
Many of the walkers have a relative or friend fighting diabetes. "People don't realize how much it affects your life," Lachowitzer said. It's
24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There's never a day off.
"You don't leave the house, you don't go on vacation without planning," to deal with health issues, she explained. "It's manageable but things can still go wrong."
Each year, more than 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States, according to the JDRF. There is no known cure.
For more information on juvenile diabetes, visit http://jdrf.org/.
Jim DeLa, East Manatee/Weekend editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.