Ellen Leake, a BETA Society member and JDRF Global Legacy Challenge Sponsor, is excited about how this Challenge will help propel type 1 diabetes (T1D) research. As a Global Legacy Challenge Sponsor, Ellen and her fellow sponsors will donate $1,000 to current JDRF-funded research for each new commitment made to JDRF through an estate plan by June 30, 2019.
Twenty-three years ago, Ellen Leake could not have imagined that one day she would become Chair of the JDRF International Board of Directors (IBOD).
In 1994, Ellen took her daughter, Elizabeth, then age 10, to the pediatrician for what she expected was a minor ailment. Instead, she learned Elizabeth had type 1 diabetes (T1D).
In the days that followed, Ellen and her husband, Eason, grappled with how the disease would impact their family, including their older daughter, Blair.
“We had the same reckoning all parents have — that life is about to change. But we had to make the turn and adjust to the new normal,” says Ellen, who currently leads a family timber and land development business in Mississippi, having previously worked as an executive with IBM.
A pivotal moment occurred in 1998, when together with other parents, Ellen and Eason helped found the JDRF Mississippi Chapter. Ellen has held numerous volunteer roles with JDRF since, becoming board chair on July 1. Today she’s inspired by how JDRF was founded in 1970 by two mothers, sitting at a kitchen table.
“I look back at how they set out on this course to make a difference for their families,” Ellen says. “As Jeff Plumer and I step into our roles as IBOD vice-chair and chair respectively, we bring dual perspectives: he, as an adult who lives with the disease, and I, as a parent.”
Ellen now has added a perspective as a grandparent. Last February, Elizabeth gave birth to her first child, after wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) during her pregnancy. The JDRF-funded CONCEPTT trial has shown that monitoring blood sugar during pregnancy with a CGM leads to significantly better outcomes for T1D mothers and their babies.
As she met her new granddaughter, Lily, Ellen recalled watching Elizabeth, years ago, work up the courage to give herself an insulin injection for the first time.
“I said to her, ‘If you can do your part, I will do mine.’ I had no idea what that would mean, but as I held Lily, I felt in a very small way that I was delivering on that promise. My hope is that one day, Lily will know that her mother had T1D but that it will not be part of their lives in years to come.”
As part of the same promise, the Leakes are longtime members of the BETA Society.
“It was an easy decision to include JDRF in our estate planning,” Ellen says. “JDRF has research that is taking longer than it should because we don’t have adequate funds to accelerate many projects. Legacy gifts help realize our goal to support people with T1D across all stages of life as we move more quickly and closer to a cure.”