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South suburban diabetes walk keeps Santo’s legacy, memory alive

Palos Heights' Karen Sepulveda, left,  and Chicago Ridge's Denise Hnat in front of a photo of Ron Santo at the JDRF walk at Moraine Valley Sunday. (Jeff Vorva/Tribune)

Palos Heights' Karen Sepulveda, left, and Chicago Ridge's Denise Hnat in front of a photo of Ron Santo at the JDRF walk at Moraine Valley Sunday. (Jeff Vorva/Tribune)

The 33rd annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk to Cure Diabetes took place Sunday at five locations in the Chicago area and in the South Suburbs, thoughts about a North Side legend filled the event.

Thousands of walkers showed up at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, and memories of former Cubs third baseman and radio analyst Ron Santo were abundant. Santo helped start the walk, which has raised more than $60 million in 32 years. (Photos: JDRF Walk at Moraine Valley)

Sunday’s walk was the first since he died Dec. 2.

WGN radio announcer Brian Noonan kicked off the walk talking to the crowd about Santo and held a moment of silence in his honor.

“This is a bittersweet day,” Noonan said minutes before the start of the event. “I think it’s a testament to his legacy and enthusiasm that so many people showed up to do this walk and raise all this money. They are continuing a fight that he was so dedicated to.”

Santo’s image was seen everywhere on t-shirts given out at the event and site chairwoman Jeannie Perry said there was a different feeling at this year’s walk.

“Even during our big corporate board meeting, it was very somber and they talked very highly of him,” she said.

Thousands were on hand to open the JDRF walk Sunday. (Jeff Vorva/Tribune)

The south suburbs had more than 80 family groups and several other corporate groups participating this year, according to Perry.

One group from Orland Park, the Chargers, participated in its seventh event. The group raised more than $100,000 its  first six years.

“I’m really proud. This is a big accomplishment,” said Carl Sandburg hargers in 2005. freshman Kieran Willis, a diabetic who helped form the C“This is one of my favorite days of the year.’’

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