Meet our August T1D Champions, Rochelle and Jessica Waldman!
What is a T1D Champion? Invaluable members of the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community who drive research progress, advocate for government action, and provide support to enrich the lives of families impacted by this disease. T1D Champions affect positive change within our community by taking action to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, treat, and prevent T1D. We are endlessly grateful for all our T1D Champions whose limitless passion and dedicated efforts are making a difference not only in the lives of those with T1D, but for future generations as we move closer to a world without T1D.
This month, we are honored to highlight an incredible mother-daughter duo, Rochelle and Jessica Waldman, who are committed to raising awareness, fundraising, and advocating for T1D so that a cure is found for Jessica and the millions of others living with this disease. Read on to learn more about Rochelle and Jessica.
What is your connection to T1D and JDRF?
Jessica: “I was diagnosed with T1D in 2011, right after my 12th birthday.”
Rochelle: “We knew a few families in our community who had kids living with T1D. As soon as Jessica was diagnosed, a lot of those families reached out to us. Our local JDRF Chapter’s Board President at the time lived in our town, and he came over right away with the Bag of Hope. We had a lot of support already from our community who were already involved with JDRF.”
How have you been involved with JDRF?
Jessica: “I was diagnosed in March, and a few months later we participated in our first JDRF One Walk as Team Jessica. We participated in the JDRF One Walk every year until I graduated high school. As soon as I got to college, I became involved with the JDRF Chicago Chapter and did two years of the walk there. Since my diagnosis, the walk has been one of the most special ways for me to feel supported by my friends and family, and to feel like I am contributing to the funding of the research and development that is so desperately needed to improve diabetes care and discover a cure.”
Rochelle: “So we did the walk every year until Jessica graduated high school, and so much of the walk was about her. When she went to college, I said I’m going to do something different, and that’s when I started doing the JDRF Rides. I’ve done them every year since 2017, and this year will be my 6th ride in Death Valley, CA.”
*Rochelle has already surpassed her fundraising goal, raising over $24,000 and counting to support life-changing T1D research—amazing!
In 2015, Jessica was selected to participate in JDRF’s Children’s Congress, a once-in a lifetime experience to engage in leadership and character building programming, and to meet with Federal decision makers to advocate for continued research and policies that promote affordability, choice, and coverage.
Rochelle: “Together Jessica and I went to Washington, DC and I have to say that really opened up my eyes about the impact of advocacy and the influence JDRF has on securing funding for such important T1D research. The rides, walks and galas are amazing, and obviously they’re fundraising a lot of money towards research, but advocacy is just so important to keep that federally funded money coming in. This experience had such an impact on me that I came back and decided to be our Chapter’s Advocacy Team Chair for four years. Those three days in DC left a big impact on me, I really enjoyed doing that.”
Jessica is a mentor to our Youth Ambassadors, and both Jessica and Rochelle are Outreach Volunteers.
Jessica: “What I’ve done so far has been really nice. We’ve worked on how Youth Ambassadors can tell their story, how to speak up for yourself, managing T1D in the classroom, and how to talk about diabetes with your friends. It’s been really empowering and special. I’ve also participated in the Newly Diagnosed E-Meet & Greets. It’s exciting to dispel rumors that parents may have heard, like that their kids won’t be able to do certain things or go away to college or travel without them. I just like to share my experience and show parents that their kids really can do anything.”
Rochelle: “I’m always happy to talk to parents of newly diagnosed kids. I understand where they are at that phase when they’re first diagnosed. I share with them how much Jessica has accomplished and how diabetes has not held her back, and I think it’s an important message. For parents to see that there is a bright, positive future ahead for their children.”
How has the work JDRF does impacted you and your family?
Jessica: “JDRF has been a huge source of comfort for my family. I was obviously much younger when I was diagnosed, but JDRF has been such an amazing resource to me that I feel so confident to refer people to JDRF when I hear that they are newly diagnosed. Everyone connected to diabetes, should be connected to JDRF.”
Rochelle: “Two weeks after Jessica was diagnosed, I went to my first parent group where I sat in a room with 10-15 other parents who have kids with T1D. Just being part of that community so early on in our journey was really comforting. To know that there were people out there that understood what we were going through and to see how it would be a few years out, it was really comforting for me. We benefit from the work of JDRF, I mean in the 11 years that Jessica has been living with T1D we have seen great advances in technology that have made her life so much easier. The artificial pancreas system has simplified her life, but this is just the first step– it isn’t a cure. Without the support of JDRF and the research they fund, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”