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Local couple on a mission to find a cure for diabetes

The American Diabetes Association looked to Napa Valley, Calif., and Buffalo a quarter century ago when it wanted to start a new a biking fundraiser to bolster diabetes awareness, support and research. Jim and Janice Horbowicz, of Clarence, were among the early volunteer supporters in Western New York.

Jim, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his late teens, served as chairman of the first Tour de Cure; Janice, as registration chair – roles that helped create a model for dozens of similar rides across the nation. The Clarence couple, both 68, have since had a hand in each annual regional event. This year’s 25th installment is expected to draw more than 1,000 riders next Saturday to Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls for a 5K walk and fun run, as well as bicycle rides that stretch from 6 to 100 miles through Niagara County. To register, call 1-888-DIABETES or visit diabetes.org/tour.

Q. You say your volunteer work has been a two-way street?

Janice: We believe in the mission of the American Diabetes Association. We’ve done a lot of volunteering but I think you get so much more in return. It’s rewarding personally, you meet so many wonderful people. It’s just a good feeling.

Q. If someone is toying with the idea of taking control of their diabetes, is this a way?

Jim: It’s a great way to network with people with diabetes.

Q. How has the Tour de Cure changed the way you approach fitness and wellness?

Jim: Exercise is important for people with diabetes. So is control of their weight. This is a perfect fit. It gives you an opportunity to begin exercising, keeping your weight at a manageable level. Training for it helps your cardiovascular system.

Janice: Hopefully when folks have been on the tour and done the riding, it’s motivational, a chance for continuation because they feel very good about themselves.

Jim: We stress that it’s not a race, it’s nothing more than a fitness event. We don’t care if you do it in an hour or hour and a half. The number one goal is always to raise money and number two is to make an enjoyable ride for the individual cyclists. It helps with self-worth for a person with diabetes. They think, “I can really do this. I can do this on a regular basis. I also see there’s information out there that can help me with my diabetes.

– Scott Scanlon