Nearly 100 people took part in the sixth annual Palmerton Diabetes Dash, formerly known as the Palmerton 5k for Diabetes.

The event raised nearly $3,000 for the American Diabetes Association, whose goal is to find better treatments and a cure for diabetes, and to advocate for those currently affected by the disease. They also offer educational services to help prevent diabetes.

"I truly appreciate you coming out for this. This is a cause that is very dear to my heart," said founder and organizer Carla Majczan, addressing participants before the race began. She has had Type 1 diabetes since childhood.

"I feel humbled when people come out for a cause that I am passionate about," she added. "A lot of families come out. It's fun, and it makes me feel good."

The first person to cross the finish line was Palmerton native John Vasko, 19, currently a student at Albright College. He finished the 5K in 18 minutes, 16 seconds.

"I enjoy running. I saw this 5K and that it was for a good cause," he said. "It's good to stay active, and events like this are a good way to raise awareness."

As runners and walkers finished the race, it became apparent that this was more than an adult's competition. Numerous strollers were visible and even children under the age of 12 were awarded medals for first through third place.

Majczan hopes to offer more for families next year, including a children's fun run.

The family atmosphere helped to emphasize the fact that diabetes is a growing problem in our country, and the choices today's adults and children make will determine whether the disease continues to spread unchecked.

"These events are so important to help us spread the message. Diabetes is at epidemic levels," said Rhonda Heier, the ADA's manager of special events. "We're really excited to be here. We had a lot of people participate, and we had a good day. We appreciate the support from the people of Palmerton."

Heier noted that the Palmerton event was organized by Majczan, a volunteer. Volunteers in our area host approximately eight to 10 independent fundraisers for the ADA each year, which help the organization to reach more people and raise more awareness about the risks and symptoms of diabetes.

"26 million Americans have diabetes," she added, noting that an additional 79 million people have prediabetes. "Almost everyone knows someone who is touched by diabetes."

Diabetes is a disease marked by high blood sugar, caused by the body's inability to use or make insulin. High blood sugar levels can cause health problems such as heart disease or stroke and can also damage the eyes, skin or nerves. It is also the seventh leading cause of death.

Doctors diagnose diabetes through a simple blood test. Common symptoms of diabetes include extreme hunger or thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurry vision, cuts and bruises that are slow to heal, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

The next local walk for the ADA will be the Lehigh Valley Step-Out Walk on Sunday, Oct. 13 at Steel Stacks in Bethlehem. Registration is online at www.diabetes.org/lehighvalley.

For more information about diabetes or the American Diabetes Association, go to www.diabetes.org.