LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - It's a record-breaking year for the annual JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in La Crosse.
More than 500 bikers rode Saturday to support the cause, bringing them about $1.5 million closer to finding a cure.
JDRF is an organization that raises money and awareness for Type 1 diabetes, sponsoring five rides nationally this year.
This is the eighth year the JDRF ride is in La Crosse, drawing cyclists from across the country.
Before riders took off at 7 a.m., the day was just breaking at Riverside Park, but there's no time to waste on the journey to finding a cure.
"I'm ready to ride,” Iowa resident Steve Graham said.
"JDRF's vision is a world without type one diabetes. It’s very simple,” said Derek Rapp, president and CEO of JDRF International.
Graham has biked in the JDRF ride in various locations since the company he works for, Hyvee, first challenged him 10 years ago.
"Everyone out here's got your back,” Graham said. "I thought it'd be one and done, yeah I'll go do that, then you see how many lives you can change," said.
Graham didn't personally know anyone who has Type 1 diabetes, so he was paired up with a youth ambassador who does named Jade. That introduced him to a family he never would have known otherwise.
"We've been friends ever since,” Graham said.
"This guy right here recruited me,” said Jade’s mom, Rhonda Logsdon. This was her third year riding alongside Graham.
"Just building relationships with JDRF and the support of the staff with family has been tremendous for us," she said.
The more people along for the ride, the better.
"The ride keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Jennifer Wickman, executive director of JDRF’s Western Wisconsin chapter. “We're raising over one and a half million dollars today."
"We're also raising awareness,” Rapp said, “and again, giving people the spirit to say, 'We're going to keep on going.'"
When the going gets tough on the course, Graham remembers people like Jade.
"Whenever you have a tough time, you know, you think, ‘I'm just pedaling a bike. I don't have to check my blood sugar 15 times a day and take insulin,’ and so to get through 100 miles, it's easier than the day-to-day that someone with Type 1 diabetes has to battle through."
With each pedal, riders come one step closer to the cure.
"A lot of goosebump moments and tears,” Graham said. "It's Jade that keeps me riding."
The course was 100 miles long, but organizers said distance doesn't matter, and cyclists can go as far as they'd like.
To date, the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes has raised more than $38 million nationally for Type 1 diabetes research.
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