Raising money for the ‘Tour’

Published 8:41 pm Saturday, March 10, 2012

Editor’s Note: With the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure coming to Suffolk this year, the Suffolk News-Herald will be taking a look at the event, the people who participate in it and the people who are affected by the disease during the next several weeks.

John Cottingham estimates he’s raised between $90,000 and $100,000 for the American Diabetes Association through the years.

When he started, back in 1997, he didn’t know a single person with diabetes. He just did it, because he was in the U.S. Army and his battalion commander encouraged them to give back to the community.

John Cottingham and his wife Kelly hold their son Ian at the finish line of Cottingham's first Tour de Cure. He hopes to ride in the Suffolk Tour de Cure next month.

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“I raised about $3,200 for that first Tour de Cure,” he said. “I was the top fundraiser.”

But since then, he has gotten even more motivation.

Both of his parents developed diabetes later in life. His wife’s family includes a number of people with diabetes. And he has a yellow jersey from a past Tour de Cure with the signatures of people with diabetes.

“Every year that list gets a little longer and a little longer,” he said.

He heard once that one in three children born in the year 2000 will end up being diagnosed with diabetes. He has three boys.

“It’s a nasty disease and knowing that one of my three kids could end up with it, I want to help as much as I can when I can,” he said.

Since his son Ian, now 14, has been old enough to ride with him, the two have formed an unstoppable team on the 100-mile bicycle ride.

“It feels pretty good,” Ian said. “It’s pretty fun. All the small little details you miss in a car, you don’t miss on a bike.”

The Tour de Cure is coming to Suffolk this year on April 21. It will pedal off from King’s Fork High School and includes 10-, 30-, 65- and 100-mile route options.

Cottingham, a Suffolk resident since 2000, said he is motivated to keep riding knowing that researchers are making progress against the deadly disease.

“If I can get out there and raise money and sweat and hurt and ultimately help raise money to find a cure for this, I’d say that’s a good day in my book,” he said.

Cottingham typically raises funds by approaching business owners and others to ask for sponsorships. He said local businesses, including Mike Duman Auto Sales, D.B. Bowles Jewelers, both Suffolk Walmart stores and the Driver Volunteer Fire Department have helped him, and his wife Kelly has motivated him to keep going.

His relentless pursuit of donations is what has propelled him to the top fundraiser lists for the entire country — first the top 50, then the top 25, then the top 12.

“I fantasize about one day being No. 1,” he said. “I always feel like I don’t do enough.”

For more information about the Tour de Cure or to register, visit www.diabetes.org/hamptonroadsvatour.