|SPRINGFIELD The Western Massachusetts/North Central Connecticut Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has announced that University of Massachusetts Head Football Coach Kevin Morris, and his wife Rebecca Morris, have been named the co-chairs of the 2009 Western Massachusetts Walk to Cure Diabetes. Joining them as part of the event's leadership team is Trey Wingo, the well-known host of ESPN's NFL Live, who will serve in the role of Grand Marshal for the walk.|
More than 3,000 walkers representing families, schools, local corporations and other organizations are expected to participate in the Western Massachusetts Walk to Cure Diabetes on Oct. 18 at Six Flags New England in Agawam, where walkers raising $50 or more for JDRF will receive free park admission for the day until Six Flags closes at 9 p.m. The walk is one of three taking place this fall by the local JDRF chapter. The collective fundraising goal is to realize more than $1 million for research to find a cure for diabetes and its complications.
At an event to kick off the walk's fundraising efforts, Coach Morris said, "Our involvement with the JDRF walk is rewarding on a personal level. Rebecca was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes 10 years ago and we have other family members also affected. We know firsthand the impact it has on your life and on those who care about you. Supporting JDRF in their efforts to find a cure is a way to make a difference for others. We want to do our part to end the suffering of our friends and loved ones who are battling this disease that kills one American every three minutes. We are happy to be raising money for the cutting-edge research that JDRF funds."
In his first year as the head coach for UMass football, Coach Morris is looking to continue the most successful period in the program's history. He served as the Minutemen's offensive coordinator for the past five years, during which time the team posted a 43-19 overall record for a 69.3 win percentage. The Minutemen have won 30 of 40 conference games, including two conference championships, the 2006 Atlantic 10 title and the 2007 CAA crown. Both squads advanced to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the 2006 title game and 2007 quarterfinals. With Morris running the offense, the Minutemen have set more than 40 school and individual records.
Wingo is one of the key figures behind ESPN's year-round coverage of the National Football League. He joined ESPN in November 1997 as an anchor for ESPNEWS and has hosted NFL Live, the weekday pro football news and information show, since its inception in 2003. In 2007, he became host of NFL PrimeTime, the long-running weekly highlight show that recaps all of Sunday's NFL games. Wingo anchors SportsCenter specials during ESPN's Super Bowl and NFL Draft coverage, in addition to co-hosting ESPN's NFL Draft telecast.
"JDRF is a highly-respected organization, and finding a cure for diabetes is a cause that I'm proud to lend my name to," Wingo said. "With Coach Morris and Rebecca serving as the walk's co-chairs, and this year's theme of 'Let's Tackle Diabetes,' my involvement seems like a natural fit. Together, we can draw support for the walk to help the millions with this disease."
JDRF's annual walk draws participation and support from families, companies, schools and civic organizations. The largest contingency on walk day is made up of entire families from children to grandparents, many of whom take part in the fundraising efforts because of a family member living with type-1 diabetes. Fourteen million Americans have a personal connection to the disease.
Last year's walk co-chairs, Agawam Mayor Susan Dawson and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, are back this year as Honorary Chairs. This year's top sponsors include Six Flags New England, WWLP, Mix93.1 WHYN, Stop & Shop and Big Y World Class Market.
Walk day offers breakfast supplied by Omar Coffee and Stop & Shop, and lunch courtesy of Ninety Nine Restaurant. Entertainment includes DJ Frank Pollard, Forest Park Petting Zoo, a visit from Six Flags costumed characters, face-painting and other children's activities. A special highlight for walkers raising funds for JDRF will be an autograph session with Coach Morris and members of the 2009-2010 UMass Minutemen football team. When the event ends at noon, shuttles will run all afternoon and evening to take walkers to the Six Flags entrance and return them to their parking area. On-site walk registration begins at 8:30 a.m. The 10 a.m.walk through the park will be approximately two miles, making it appropriate for all ages and abilities.
To participate in the Western Massachusetts walk or to sponsor the event, build a walk team or obtain more information, visit www.jdrf.org or call (860) 470-0020 or (888) 533-9255. Walkers are invited to join Team UMass or to form their own team on the JDRF Web site.
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