Racers join in the quest for a cure

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CRANFORD, NJ — Sunday turned out to be a good day for a race.
Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure hosted its ninth annual Cranford Cure T1 Diabetes 5K Walk/Run on Sunday, Sept. 18, in Nomahegan Park, at 1033 Springfield Ave. The 5K takes place annually to rally support to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

“The event was very well attended,” said John Arminio, a representative for Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure, in an interview with Union County LocalSource on Monday, Sept. 19. “The event started at 9 a.m. The weather was great. The turnout was great. We give out awards for different age groups and overall.

“It was a beautiful day, probably the highest level of attendance we had,” he continued. “Last year was the first year kind of back in person, after the pandemic, and it was decent but lower than previous years. This year, we made up for it, definitely. The participation compared to other 5Ks is kind of low but we also do a walk. There were probably 250 people partaking in both events. So there are typically more runners than walkers. It’s sanctioned by the United States Track & Field association. If they sanctioned the event, then, from a runner’s standpoint, you know you can earn points. They help us with liability insurance that we have to have.”

The Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure nonprofit originated as a family-and-friends cycling team that rode each year in the Tour de Cure, a national fundraising event for diabetes research and treatment. After 11 years of enthusiastic participation, the Schmitt family took fundraising to the next level and created a 501(c)(3) organization to raise money to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes and support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, now known as the JDRF, since Type 1 diabetes can affect people at any age. SQC has collaborated on a variety of previous fundraisers, with more than 1,250 total participants.

Gloria Rose and Andrew Schmitt, siblings, are the founders of Schmitts’ Quest for a Cure.

“I was diagnosed in high school, and all throughout college and probably for three or four years after college, I didn’t want … that to be my only identity,” said Gloria Rose Schmitt in an interview with LocalSource on Wednesday, Sept. 21. “But now I want to share it with others because I want people to know that having diabetes is not a limitation or anything that can hinder your success or your growth.”

Both Schmitts are Type 1 diabetics, said Arminio, who is the Schmitts’ uncle. “They were diagnosed kind of young, and they started with volleyball in Cranford High School to raise money. But it was just grassroots to raise money. And then they created a 501(c)(3) to raise money. And I said (creating the nonprofit is) a really good way to raise money. … I (helped raise money) in Montville for an organization called Pathways for Exceptional Children for a number of years. I thought (creating a nonprofit) could be a good thing for Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure.”

“Initially, we had participated in a bike ride through the American Diabetes Association,” said Gloria Rose Schmitt. “We did it for a few years, and the first year we had a lot of people come out with us, but by the third year, it was just our family doing it, so we decided we wanted to do something local. So we did a volleyball tournament, but it limited people. So then we decided that we would have a race, a run/walk.

“I grew up in Cranford, so I always saw the (Cranford Jaycees) Firecracker 4 Miler and I saw how successful it was. As we got into logistics, we saw that the Firecracker 4 Miler was more on the road, and, because of logistics, they needed police,” Schmitt continued, adding that the Schmitts’ run wouldn’t need as much of an assist from the police, since their event was in a park. But there are still plenty of arrangements to be made.

“We have to communicate with the county and town and get permits,” Schmitt said. My uncle “gets the race sanctioned, so it’s more appealing to runners. The first race, we just handed out fliers. He added more of the professional side to it.”

“All the money goes to JDRF for Type 1,” said Arminio. “We didn’t do it in 2020, but we did a virtual one. We had a site where you could run virtually.”

Through growing event participation and the generosity of their sponsors, Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure has continued its partnership with and commitment to JDRF.

Participants in the race received T-shirts, goodie bags and refreshments. The category winners received awards. Most importantly, the race raises money for a good cause: diabetes research and treatment.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Schmitt. “We all have jobs, and we all have families. September is a nice time to do it, but, as my kids get older, it’s a very busy time. I do not participate, but I would like to.”

“Between the registration fee and straight donations and sponsorships, I’m sure we exceeded $10,000 this year,” said Arminio. “We had about 15 sponsors; that’s a straight donation. There were other donations, too.”

“Since 2017, we’ve almost doubled how much we’ve raised,” said Schmitt. “This year was definitely our best year. We’re hoping to give JDRF about $12,000.

“Ultimately, (I’m working for) a cure,” Schmitt continued. “I’ve been a Type 1 (diabetic) for almost 20 years, and management of it has blown me away. The technology, the capabilities we have, it takes a lot of work out of it. I mean, it’s still hard. I wear this glucose monitor all the time. I believe it’s the efforts and the fundraising we do that helps these things be available.”

Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure continues as a family effort to this day.

“The committee that organizes it is all family and friends,” said Arminio. “I’m their uncle on their mother’s side. On their father’s side is an uncle from Maryland who has Type 1 diabetes and often comes to the 5K. He did this year. It’s a family affair and it goes for a good cause.”

But just because it’s a family affair doesn’t mean others can’t get involved.

“I work as a nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering (Cancer Center), so a lot of my friends are very active and we try to do things with them as well,” said Schmitt.

“A family from Mountain Lakes read about the event and they’re all runners and they came to it,” added Arminio. “Their child is a Type 1 diabetic. The two families combined will make more than $50,000 this year. (That family’s) website is called Willpower, and they have their run on Thanksgiving morning.”

“We try to participate in the one in Mountain Lakes,” Schmitt added.

“The most important thing is it goes for a good cause,” said Arminio.

To find out more about Schmitts’ Quest for the Cure, visit facebook.com/schmittsquestforthecure.

Photos by David VanDeventer