Diabetes motivates Harrison City man to join fight for cure

Photo by Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

When Steve Rennekamp's wife, Susan, succumbed to complications of type 2 diabetes 33 years ago, much of today's technology for treating the disease did not exist.

“The insulin pump has been around for a while, but that was not there when my wife was sick,” said Rennekamp, 67, of Harrison City. “Even things like checking blood sugars — you know, you prick your finger and you put it in your meter — that wasn't available.”

Rennekamp, owner of Energy Swing Windows and Doors in Murrysville, is serving as the corporate chair of this year's Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Walk to Cure Diabetes at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. He is responsible for recruiting corporate sponsors for the Sept. 27 walk that raises money for type 1 diabetes research.

“It gives you a way to do something that's a worthy cause that's really making advancements,” Rennekamp said.

Diabetes continues to affect Rennekamp's loved ones — his son Stephen, 42, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 15 years ago, and his pet cat takes insulin shots twice a day for the disease.

Rennekamp got involved with the foundation's walk three years ago after Terry Reese, 63, of Greensburg asked him to participate in the walk committee. Reese and Rennekamp's daughters went to school together, so Reese was familiar with Susan Rennekamp's experience with the disease.

“JDRF is the organization that is driving the agenda for searching for a cure and searching for ways to cope with diabetes,” Reese said.

Reese, who owns Overly Door Co. in Greensburg, previously served as corporate chair. He recommended Rennekamp for the position, knowing him both personally and in a business sense.

“He's dedicated,” he said. “He's never done a job and not done it well. He's well-respected in the community.”

Rennekamp feels his skills as a businessman will translate well into his role as corporate chair. His dedication to educating his customers about his products mirrors the foundation's dedication to educating families dealing with diabetes.

“They do education a lot with the parents ... like helping them manage it, what to look for, how to test blood sugars,” Rennekamp said.

“With JDRF ... they are supporting an individual, and that's what we try to do here,” he said.

He has mailed letters to customers and businesses, asking for sponsorships, donations or participation in the walk itself. A member of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, he sent letters to Chamber members. He plans to donate a portion of Energy Swing Windows and Doors sales to the cause, and he is selling JDRF paper sneakers at his business.

On Saturday, Energy Swing Windows and Doors will host a flea market in the business' parking lot at at 3245 Miracle Drive from 8 a.m. to noon, during which proceeds from vendor table fees and food sales will benefit the cause.

Rennekamp's son, Don Darragh of Harrison City, said his father is knowledgeable about the disease. Darragh played Little League with Stephen Rennekamp, and his mother, Betty, married Rennekamp 10 years after his wife died. Rennekamp said his wife had asked Betty to be the mother of their children before she passed.

“I remember him, when I was a little boy, the way he was taking care of her,” Darragh said. “My dad was almost like a doctor knowing things about diabetes.”

Darragh said Rennekamp is putting the same time and effort into his involvement with the foundation as he puts into his business.

“There's an overlap,” he said. “What we do at our business is we want to improve people's lives, and JDRF wants to improve people's lives.”

Rennekamp said his first wife would think his involvement with the cause was “the right thing to do,” especially because their son has diabetes.

“She struggled with it for quite a while,” he said. “It affected the quality of her life.”

Stephen Rennekamp said his father is “extremely driven and motivated.”

“Whatever he puts his mind to, he'll do his best to make sure that he succeeds,” he said.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 ornchynoweth@tribweb.com.

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