Paul “The Ultimate” Vaden, President of the Board of Directors of the JDRF San Diego Chapter, doesn’t have T1D. Neither does his child, nor do any of his relatives. But after attending a JDRF Gala in 2004, he made T1D his personal fight.
The retired professional boxer and World Boxing Champion, motivational speaker and author has put his “heart of gold” and champion mentality toward driving JDRF to new levels of excellence.
“There are moments in your life when challenges beat you down, and you have a minute to make a decision,” said Vaden, whose memoir Answer the Bell: Inventing Your Life as Champion, reflects his philosophy of never giving up. “Answering the Bell is getting up in the face of life’s challenges when that bell rings.”
A native of San Diego, Vaden has been actively involved with JDRF since 2004. He has devoted countless hours to the JDRF One Walk at San Diego, played an integral role in the San Diego Chapter Gala, and has been a role model for advocacy.
In 2018, Vaden became President of the Board of Directors of JDRF’s San Diego Chapter (now a part of the Southern California Chapter) after having served for four years as a member of the board.
Under Vaden’s leadership, the San Diego Chapter saw one of its best financial years, raising more than $3 million and exceeding the budgeted goal by 20%.
“The fact that he does not have T1D nor does he have a child or relative with the disease speaks volumes about who he is as a person and as a leader,” said Sean McParland, Executive Director of JDRF’s Pacific Northwest Chapter.
While Vaden’s nickname “The Ultimate” originated with his boxing career, it is a title that continues to describe him as an individual and as a leader. There is nothing, it seems, he cannot do.
With his celebrity status, Vaden forges authentic, long-lasting relationships, gains personal meetings with Congress and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for T1D research. And his efforts are not limited to the San Diego Chapter. He has also been heavily involved in fundraising for the JDRF New Mexico Chapter.
“It was April 2017 and they invited me to come to their Gala,” Vaden said. “I said, ‘T1D takes place in New Mexico, too—my fight is for everyone.’”
“I came and spoke at events all weekend long. I donated ‘A Day with the Champion’ for the live auction,” Vaden said. “But the most important thing, and my main message, is that what takes place when we leave the room—when these events are over—the work continues.”
“When I met Paul, it was clear that he could be a champion in the fight against type 1 diabetes,” said Steve Altman, former president and vice chairman of Qualcomm, Inc., who has several family members—including two of his three children—with T1D. “He graciously accepted my invitation to the JDRF Gala where he met my family and others impacted by the disease. That was 2004 and he has been answering the bell ever since. Paul’s commitment to the cause is second to none.”
In recognition of his unwavering commitment to JDRF, Vaden received the 2019 Erwin Lurie Award. The award is presented annually to chapter volunteers whose commitment to the volunteer/staff partnership has significantly advanced the mission and strategic priorities of JDRF.
“From childhood to now, I have been blessed to have individuals come into my life who were willing and able to help me navigate the obstacles in my path, so I always had an opportunity to reach the end zone,” Vaden said. “I view it as my responsibility, privilege and honor to do exactly the same for others.”