Last Friday, a South Setauket resident started walking, heading east on Route 347 with the hopes of possibly making it to Riverhead. He wasn’t worried about the distance, as the long journey wasn’t his first.
“You really have to retool how you fundraise, and I was like, ‘You know what, it’s my calling. I need to go on another walk.’”
— Michael Ehrlich
Michael Ehrlich, 49, is in training to walk 107 miles Columbus Day weekend with the goal of raising $50,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The nonprofit funds Type 1 diabetes research, provides community services to T1D patients and advocates for them. Ehrlich will walk from the Manhattan side of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to Orient Point beginning Saturday, Oct. 10. He estimates that it will take roughly 50 hours.
The T1D battle is a personal one for him, as his 16-year-old daughter Rachael was diagnosed with the condition in 2016. At first his family had to wait for the insurance company to approve a much-needed insulin pump for her, and a couple of years ago she was finally able to get it. With the pump and continuous glucose monitoring, the Ward Melville High School student is doing well.
Ehrlich has raised money for the foundation before by walking more than 100 miles. In 2017, the father, who was featured in a TBR News Media article for his effort, garnered nearly $35,000 by walking from Manhattan’s Times Square to Montauk Point. He had hoped to participate in other events to raise money for JDRF, and in 2018 walked from his house to Manhattan and was training to run in the New York City Marathon to represent JDRF, but an ankle injury acted up. Despite the injury, he raised an additional $32,000 with smaller events
The injury is one he has suffered with on and off since his 2017 walk, but he knew it was important to get back out there walking to raise money for the foundation.
“It must be really hard to fundraise as a nonprofit when they can’t have their balls and charity events,” he said. “You really have to retool how you fundraise, and I was like, ‘You know what, it’s my calling. I need to go on another walk.’”
To deal with his injury he wears Hoka sneakers, which he said aren’t the most attractive but provide good support, and he utilizes Chi walking when his foot hurts. He learned the method, which uses the core principles of T’ai Chi, before his 2017 walk.
“It’s not the most intuitive walking style but it’s definitely the most pain-free way to do it,” he said. “It’s just having the discipline because you do have to think about a whole bunch of things at the same time.”
To get ready for the trek, Ehrlich has been walking for hours at a time, sometimes late at night or in the early morning hours which will prepare him for walking overnight. When he’s done with his practice walks, he’ll either call his wife to pick him up, or if it’s late, he’ll use Uber to get home.
During his first fundraising walk in 2017, Ehrlich said he chose the South Shore because it had less of an elevation increase than the North Shore. But this time, he wanted to travel through places such as the Three VIllage area.
“It’s not like you’re hiking a mountain, but there are a lot of hills,” he said
Another change from his 2017 walk is that Ehrlich won’t be carrying a backpack with several essentials. He said he plans on having a waist belt with water, an energy bar and batteries. To eat and drink along the way he’ll rely on friends and anyone who hears about his journey. A couple of friends have also offered to walk part of the distance with him.
“Mike is a passionate guy that loves his family, community and the outdoors.”
— Carmine Inserra
Carmine Inserra said he hopes to join Ehrlich on part of the walk if his schedule allows. The two belong to the Facebook group Three Village Dads and recently the both of them completed the virtual Michael P. Murphy Run Around the Lake Half Marathon.
“Mike is a passionate guy that loves his family, community and the outdoors,” Inserra said. “This walk to Orient and his previous one to Montauk just shows how committed he is to them and juvenile Type 1 diabetes.”
Inserra added that Ehrlich has raised awareness that diabetes isn’t about poor dietary habits and there is a need for more research.
He has raised nearly $35,000 already, he said, from 291 donors toward this year’s $50,000 goal. The father said many have donated through his professional network in the mortgage industry, as well as previous donors and members of the Three Village Dads Facebook group, which he belongs to.
“Before the walk, during the walk or after the walk, I really want to get that $50,000,” he said. “I think I will. People are pretty generous.”
Maureen Fitzgerald, executive director of JDRF’s Greater New York City chapter, said the foundation was started 50 years ago by volunteers who wanted to see a world without T1D for their children. She said Ehrlich is one of the people who carries on that vision and in a “highly unique” way.
“When Michael walked from Times Square to Montauk in 2017 to bring attention to JDRF and to the daily struggle that his daughter Rachael faces as she manages her Type 1 diabetes, we marveled — not only at his stamina, but at his clear love for his daughter and his willingness to raise awareness and funds, whatever it took,” Fitzgerald said. “Today, as Michael prepares to embark on this journey for a second time, our JDRF team marvels all over again — at his energy, his enthusiasm, his love for Rachael, and his power to teach many about what the 1.6 million Americans living with T1D face every day.”
For more info on the fundraiser and Ehrlich arrival times for the walk visit his Facebook page, Manhattan2Montauk.