Shortly after our son Jake was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at just 11 months old, Keith and I became active volunteers with the New England Chapter of JDRF, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. As the leading global organization funding T1D research, JDRF’s mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. In addition funding research to find a cure and reduce the burdens of living with the disease, JDRF is a community―bringing hope and support to anyone affected by T1D.
Over the past 15 years we have served myriad roles in the organization. Keith was a member of the Chapter Board from 2005 to 2011 and was the Honoree of the 2006 JDRF Boston Gala. I am currently serving my third year on the Chapter Board as vice president of outreach. I have also been active on the Gala Committee for the better part of ten years.
When Jake was first diagnosed, we felt alone—not knowing anyone else living with the T1D. I attended a local JDRF Networking Coffee and immediately found support. It was not until I met other parents of children with the disease that I knew we would have a normal life again―their guidance showed me it would just be a new normal. Initially, JDRF was my lifeline and now it is my mission. As vice president of outreach I try to “pay it forward” by working with the staff and other volunteers to organize and promote the local programs and opportunities that offer support, education, and networking opportunities for families living with T1D. I routinely meet with newly diagnosed families to help ease their adjustment to life with T1D. I also try to identify and engage new volunteers to expand the JDRF community.
I continue to learn so much about living with T1D from the people with whom I volunteer, and I always tell new volunteers I have gained so much more than I have given from my years of service to JDRF. We did not choose JDRF; it chose us. We are hopeful for a day when there is no longer a need for JDRF and we can dedicate our time to another worthwhile organization. In the meantime, because those living with T1D can never take a break from the disease, we cannot take a break from volunteering to improve, in whatever way we can, the lives of all who are affected by T1D.