Well over 100 people turned out Saturday for the third-annual Coplin Health Systems Dash for Diabetes at Washington’s Riverfront Park in Ravenswood.

Cherrie Cowan is a diabetes nurse practitioner at Coplin, a primary care practice that has grown from six to nine sites over the last several years.

“I do diabetes care within that practice, and we have a diabetes initiative that we work on throughout the year to bring awareness to diabetes,” she said.

Coplin chief medical officer Murrita Bolinger said the company’s growth has allowed Coplin to reach more and more people.

“We have really reached out into the different communities, reaching Jackson County, Wirt County, Wood County, and we even have a school-based site over in Racine, Ohio, at Southern Local,” Bolinger said.

The Dash for Diabetes is a great way to further spread awareness of type two diabetes, which has grown to a national epidemic, Cowan said. It combines information about the disease with exercise, which is one of the most important ways to prevent and treat the condition.

“Exercise is important for everyone to be healthy, but it’s especially important for people with diabetes to help them control their blood sugar,” she said.

Coplin chief medical officer Murrita Bolinger raising awareness of diabetes and its causes is an important part of treating the epidemic.

“Each year, we have spoken about type two diabetes and pre diabetes to raise awareness. I think it has really grown in reaching different people in the community,” she said.

Cowan said the annual Dash for Diabetes has grown larger each year.

“When we first started out with the Dash for Diabetes, we had 88 people participate. Last year, a couple of weeks before the race, we had 45 people sign up, but then we ended up with 100 on race day. This year, during preregistration, we ended up with 96, and more are signing up right now,” Cowan said.

Cowan said she looks forward to Dash for Diabetes every year.

“I’ve been doing diabetic care for 32 years, and this is my event of the year. I love doing this. I love taking care of people with diabetes; it’s very significant to me,” she said.

Bolinger said the cause is special to her because her father had type two diabetes.

“Because of that I have that heart and compassion to take care of and bring awareness to diabetes. It is an epidemic. We know that one in three adults has pre-diabetes, and lot of people don’t know they have it,” she said.

Bolinger said Cowan’s dedication to the cause has been inspirational.

“I’m also a family nurse practitioner. I practice taking care of people who have the condition of diabetes. When I went back to school, Cherrie was my mentor and my inspiration,” Bolinger said.

Cowan said one of the most important messages she can convey to the public is that smoking cigarettes and drinking soda should be avoided in order to prevent type two diabetes.

“Those are the two leading causes of death in the United States. Drinking soda can give you diabetes,” she said. “If you’re drinking soda, you should stop.”

Bolinger said diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States overall, but Cowan said she believes that number could be higher.

“I think it’s higher than that. It’s the complications from diabetes that often causes the death, so then that complication gets listed as the cause of death. But behind that is type two diabetes,” Cowan said.

Bolinger said increasing physical activity and eating healthy food can actually prevent or postpone type two diabetes.

“If you have pre-diabetes, we know that if you increase your physical activity and eat healthy, you can actually prevent type two diabetes or at least delay the onset. Unfortunately, our society as a whole is not really good at eating fruits and vegetables,” she said. “It’s very important to know your risk factors and get tested.”