Celebrating National Volunteer Week

All week long, JDRF Illinois will be celebrating National Volunteer Week by featuring incredible volunteers who embody what it means to be All for (Type) One and highlighting their passion and dedication to funding type 1 diabetes (T1d) research.

To kick it off, we are proud to honor Steve Dragich for his steadfast commitment to the JDRF Illinois Chapter. Steve has been involved with JDRF Illinois for over a decade and brings a passion to his volunteerism. As current Board President and the 2015 One Dream Gala Fund A Cure family, Steve and the Dragich’s are invaluable members of our community and JDRF family.  

“Volunteering at JDRF Illinois is one small way that I can give back to an organization that has given our family and others so much support and hope for the future. It is easy to be passionate about this cause when you live with the disease 24/7. The JDRF volunteer community is truly special and inspiring.”– Steve 

As a volunteerpowered organization, we are fortunate to have people like Steve who are making a real impact on our shared mission. This week we celebrate you and all you do for JDRF and the T1D community! 

The JDRF Illinois Youth Ambassador Program empowers children and teens living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to become leaders in their community through education, fundraising, and volunteer efforts. Youth Ambassadors are representatives of JDRF in their communities who raise awareness about T1D by telling their story.  

During National Volunteer Week we would like to highlight three JDRF Youth Ambassadors Lauren, Preston, and Teagan who have been volunteers at several JDRF events including TypeOneNation, One Dream Gala, One Walk, and Children’s Congress.  

When asked about why they volunteer at JDRF their responses were thoughtful and heartwarming.  

 “I volunteer because it makes me feel like I am a bigger part of this community. Having T1D obviously makes me a part of the diabetic community, but volunteering makes me feel like I’m making a difference.” – Lauren G.  

“I first started volunteering with JDRF because I didn’t know anyone else with type 1 and I wanted to meet other kids managing diabetes. I continue to volunteer because I want to help with the end goal of finding a cure, as well as supporting those who are newly diagnosed.” – Preston W. 

“I volunteer because I want to help find a cure for everyone dealing with Type 1 diabetes. Volunteering is very important to me and it is something I will always do.” – Teagan M. 

Thank you to all our JDRF Youth Ambassadors for being young leaders who support and advocate for the entire T1D community!

Chris Svab first started volunteering for JDRF Illinois in 2018 and has since become a crucial part of the team. With a friendly face and always up for anything mentality, Chris wears many volunteer hats. She has volunteered for the One Dream Gala, TypeOneNationOne Walk, and doing many general office support projects. For 18 years, Chris was a stay-at-home mom and when her daughter left for college, she knew she wanted to volunteer somewhereLiving with T1D herself made JDRF the perfect place to go.   

“While working on a mailing at the JDRF office, a guy popped into the conference room to say hi – it was JDRF CEO, Aaron Kowalski. I introduced myself as “just a volunteer” and he responded, “No one is ‘just a volunteer’ – we are all working towards the same goal”. I went back to stuffing envelopes and considered that my job needed to be done and that a staff member was now free to focus on their work to treat, prevent and cure T1D.” – Chris

Volunteers like Chris who are always willing to go the extra mile, with a friendly smile on their face, are what National Volunteer Week is all about. Thank you for your tremendous contributions and for being so much more than “just a volunteer”!

JDRF Advocates help build and sustain critical support for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research funded by the Federal Government by raising awareness among Members of Congress of the financial, medical, and emotional costs of the disease. 

Today, we wanted to feature two of our outstanding Advocacy volunteers  John Allen and Hugh O’Hara.

John Allen first volunteered with JDRF Illinois through the One Dream Gala in 2013, but quickly blossomed into meeting with members of Congress, traveling six hours to the JDRF Ride in La Crosse, WI to volunteer, serving on the JDRF One Walk planning committee, and most recently becoming the chapter’s Research Information Volunteer (RIV).

As a person with T1D, I’m motivated to volunteer at JDRF given the treatment advancements I have benefitted from. JDRF is a very special and unique organization in that it not only advances research, but addresses all the critical elements of clinical trials, industry partnerships, FDA approvals, and insurance coverage to get evolving treatments to T1Ds.”  – John 

Hugh O’Hara first became involved with the JDRF Illinois Chapter following their oldest daughter,
Rauri’s, T1D diagnosis in 2016. Since then, the O’Hara family has jumped at every opportunity to make an impact on T1D research. Each year, they participate in the JDRF One Walk, TypeOneNation, the One Dream Gala, and are strong supporters of Government Days and the Promise to Remember Me Congressional visitsTheir daughter Rauri even became a JDRF Illinois Youth Ambassador in 2018.

“To me, volunteering means I can help bring us one step closer to a cure. I am not a scientist who will discover the next breakthrough, but I can advocate and fundraise for those working hard to make important advancements.” – Hugh 

It goes without saying that volunteers are truly essential to the success of all JDRF events – they bring the heart and hard work that ensures the day goes off without a hitch. At the annual JDRF One Dream Gala, an incredible 400 volunteers pitch in when we are in-person at McCormick Place. Today for #NationalVolunteerWeek we are highlighting two of those incredible Gala volunteers, Julie and Grant.

Julie Fluno is a long-standing JDRF supporter who continues to volunteer because she wants a cure for her two daughters, Lauren and Alyssa, and the millions of people like them living with T1D. Julie first began volunteering with JDRF in 1996 at the annual Ron Santo Walk and in 2000 they were the very first Fund a Cure family at the JDRF Man of the Year dinner.

Julie has also been the volunteer co-chair for the One Dream Gala for over 17 years. Julie effortlessly manages the 400+ Gala volunteers that come together to help the evening run smoothly.

“Some people can donate money, some can donate time, and some can do both. I can’t cure T1D but I can give my time and money to help those who can.” – Julie

Grant has been volunteering with JDRF for nearly a decade, giving of his time and talents to assist the Chapter with pro bono media and PR assistance. At the One Dream Gala, Grant and the Zeno team (@zenograms) help document the night through social media, spread the mission through press releases, and assist with video and content creation. We so appreciate their work to capture the special memories at the Gala.

“On the One Dream Gala night, when everyone moves to the ballroom for dinner, there’s a separate dining area for volunteers–that’s when I usually spend time with my Zeno colleagues and other JDRF families and volunteers working the event. I always look forward to that–meeting new people and hearing their stories while we munch on chicken fingers and potato wedges.” – Grant

Volunteers like Julie and Grant are truly crucial to the success and fun that we have at JDRF events. And we hope you will join us at this year’s One Dream Gala on Saturday, December 11. Thank you to all our incredible event volunteers for all you do each and every day!

Dr. Anita Swamy is a pediatric endocrinologist at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and is the medical director of the Chicago Children’s Diabetes Center at La Rabida Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swamy began volunteering with JDRF almost 12 years ago as a guest speaker at JDRF’s TypeOneNation. She vividly remembers giving her first lecture to families at the KidsZone.

“I remember being nervous for my first speaking engagement with JDRF because I didn’t know how I’d be received by all the parents and children present. I felt like a “poser” lecturing to all these incredible people, but little did I realize how much they were equally as overwhelmed and nervous. They were so incredibly receptive and encouraging – I had about 20 people come up and ask questions. It was such a rewarding experience that I knew I was committed to JDRF for life.” – Dr. Swamy

She quickly became involved with the annual One Walks, lecturing at family and fundraising events, and most recently partnering with JDRF to create A Diabetes Lesson Plan for School Nurses, an educational series on school-based diabetes care for students.

Dr. Swamy is very passionate about diabetes management and is dedicated to serving her community through education and outreach. “I think it’s important to educate and be an advocate – there is an enormous need for accessible pediatric diabetes education. We need to ensure that our children receive appropriate care while at school and that they can thrive as a result.”

We would like to give a heartfelt shoutout and thank you to Dr. Swamy and all our volunteer partners! You inspire us daily with your passion and commitment to advancing life-changing research for type 1 diabetes (T1D)

Kenny Arini started volunteering with JDRF five years ago when he was named the Philanthropy Chair of his fraternity. JDRF was the fraternity’s national philanthropy partner, and Kenny made it his personal mission to strengthen this community partnership even further.

“I have friends and family who have Type 1 and I know the impact it has on a person’s life and I’ve been able to see firsthand how much the work that we do with JDRF can change a person’s life, both now and in the future.” – Kenny

Kenny was asked to join the Walk Experience Committee for the Chicago One Walk and has been a team member ever since! Kenny always goes above and beyond on Walk day to make sure it is a meaningful experience for all the Walk families. Rain or shine, he is there with a smile making sure everything runs smoothly and everyone is having a good time.

“I’ll never forget the first time I came to the JDRF One Walk. I was volunteering in the Kids Zone and brought some of my friends. We dressed up in full costumes and entertained the kids all morning. When we were done, my friends all shared stories about meaningful interactions they had with different families and it really drove home how impactful giving up a few hours one Sunday could be.” – Kenny

Kennys’ continued dedication and positive energy is something we greatly appreciate! It’s volunteers like Kenny who drive our shared mission forward and truly model what it means to be stronger together!

Jamie first started volunteering with JDRF over five years ago when her daughter, Charli was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) a few weeks short of her 2nd birthday. She has shared Charli’s T1D story at corporate partnership meetings, served as the lead for the JDRF Illinois TypeOneNation’s Kid’s Zone, served as an outreach mentor to newly diagnosed families, served as a local advocate to urge Congress for access to care, managed the new family tent at the JDRF One Walk, and have represented JDRF at many community events across the Chicagoland suburbs.

“One of my most memorable and heartwarming JDRF volunteer experiences was when several children participating in the TypeOneNation’s Kids Zone came up to me, hugged me, and told me how much fun they had. They also told me how excited they were for the following year and that I am officially their best friend.” – Jamie 

As you can see, Jamie is one of our most dedicated volunteers and when JDRF was trying to determine the 2019 awardee for the Generosity of Spirit Award, it was no contest. It was a unanimous decision to honor Jamie with that award. We are fortunate to have Jamie as a part of the JDRF family and hope that when we get back to in-person events, you can meet her at TypeOneNation, the Walk, or a community event near you!

Thank you to all our volunteers! The past year has been challenging, but we’ve seen your talent and commitment shine through, moving us closer to a world without T1D. Your dedicated support demonstrates just how much we can accomplish when we work together. We use National Volunteer Week  to officially celebrate your volunteerism, but it goes without saying that we are endlessly grateful, every single day, for your time and commitment to our shared mission. From board, event committees and office volunteers, to advocacy leaders, outreach volunteers and youth ambassadors, we thank each and every one of you who share your talent, knowledge and passion with us. Together, we will continue to move forward until living in a world without T1D becomes a reality. Thank you!

To learn more about becoming a JDRF volunteer CLICK HERE