Diabetes awareness goal of Tribal walk
World Series Stickball teams from Tribal communities such as Conehatta and Redwater walked as far as 40 miles Saturday morning to the Pearl River community to help spread awareness about diabetes.
On top of the distance, all stickball teams participating in the 15th Annual Unity Walk had to meet at the Choctaw High School softball fields at 10:15 a.m. on June 25, so some teams had to begin their trek very early in the morning.
Diabetes Prevention Coordinator Sharron Thompson said the Unity Walk and Run started in 2007 when members of the Tribe met with a group walking across Mississippi in Bay Springs and decided to start their own walk to fight against diabetes.
“Back in 2007, the Diabetes Prevention Team was trying to find a way for the Choctaw people to get involved in physical activities,” Thompson said. “There was a group from Bay Springs, Mississippi walking, and they invited us to come to walk with them. We met them in Bay Springs and walked back to the reservation, which sparked the idea of having a unity walk before the Choctaw Indian Fair.”
World Series Stickball teams walked from their respective practice fields and arrived at the Choctaw Central High School softball field parking lot. From there, the teams walked together to the Pearl River Amphitheater.
The Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) and Diabetes Prevention Program sponsor the event and encourage everyone to stand united in the fight against diabetes.
“It’s an event to spread awareness, and it’s also a good time since it gets the Stickball players excited and riled up,” Thompson said. “We have several teams from different communities who take part in this. We had 28 teams participate in the walk this year and probably gained around five teams from when we first started. We had a little over 700 people participate, so we’ve gained some slight growth over the year, compared to the 600 participants back in 2007. We had 57 drummers as well.”
Some teams from communities like Conehatta and Redwater walked between 20 and 40 miles from their Stickball fields to the Pearl River Community.
“No matter how far they have to walk, all teams have to meet at the Choctaw High School baseball fields at 10:15 a.m.,” Thompson said. “I’ve been with the program since we started, but this is my first year to head it, and I think it went very well. We’re united to fight against diabetes. That is the goal, to spread awareness.”
Teams received water, Gatorade, and bagged lunches with burgers and hotdogs when they reached the Amphitheater.
Native Americans are twice as likely as others to have diabetes, according to the CDC. In about 2 out of 3 Native Americans with kidney failure, diabetes is the cause. Kidney failure from diabetes dropped by 54% in Native Americans between 1996 and 2013.
Go to diabetes.org for more information.