February Cure Champion

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Victoria was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on September 30, 2010. Like all families with a fresh diagnosis, our world was turned upside down. As we embraced our new life, we found a family in JDRF and became involved with JDRF One Walk, Advocacy and Ride. The One Walk was the first event we became involved in. It was a day of celebration, information, and support. We met newly diagnosed families and the long timers who would nod their heads in understanding and seemed to take it all in stride. At that time, it was hard to believe that we would one day be one of these in stride families. They gave us hope. Fundraising for Walk gave our friends and family a way to show their support. As we like to say, “We’ve got the Big Brains’ Backs,” and the people who love us had ours. Together we raised money to support the researchers who are constantly bringing us better treatment options, and one day will bring us a cure.

Meeting folks at Walk led us to our involvement in advocacy, where we have used our voices to advocate for better treatment options and a cure. Our work with advocacy brought opportunities for our family to walk the halls of Congress and taught the children that their voices matter. We learned about the Special Diabetes Program (SDP) and how it provides $150 million per year toward research related to T1D. We were thrilled to be able to help convince Congress on the importance of renewing the SDP as well as other legislation impacting those who live with T1D. We incorporated advocacy into Walk and started recruiting more advocates. As the more voices that call for change, the louder the call and the more likely for it to be heard. Signing on to an action alert from JDRF is one of the easiest and most satisfying steps one can do to help further research. When you register to be a JDRF Advocate (jdrf.org/join), you receive the alerts and all it requires is a few clicks. We have made dear friends through advocacy, some of the best friends we wish we’d never met.

We heard more and more about JDRF Ride as we became more involved. I participated in my first ride in Burlington, Vermont in 2015. I raised more money than I thought I could. I rode my bike 100 miles and was sobbing as I crossed the finish line. My family and dear friends, with their faces painted blue, waved and cheered for me. It was an unbelievable moment of joy (and relief)! Once our older daughter, Madeline, turned 13 years old, she joined the ride in Saratoga, NY. Two years later when Victoria was 13 years old, she rode 100 miles in Amelia Island, Florida. We were joined by her aunts and uncles who had started to ride. Victoria’s family has raised over $20,000 for JDRF Ride through golf tournaments, bake sales, coin jars at workplaces and coffee shops, and regular use of social media. We were all amazed at the support from friends and family and to learn how many people we know have had their lives touched by diabetes.

JDRF and the people we have met through participating in JDRF One Walk, Ride, and Advocacy has been the silveriest of silver linings in a journey that we did not ask to be on. We will continue in all the programs until the day we celebrate a cure together, as not only do they fund the research that will bring us a cure but they also provide support, inspiration, and understanding.

-Mary McQuillen