Every Day Hero: Kathy Sturm


Meet Kathy Sturm, January’s Every Day Hero.

In the words of Development Coordinator Marnie Mills:

“To try and describe Kathy Sturm in one word is impossible! Kathy’s son, Leyton was diagnosed with T1D 7 years ago, and since then Kathy has been one of JDRF’s most passionate and hard working volunteers. Kathy started volunteering her time with Walk, but has since joined the Greater Blue Ridge JDRF office as a part time employee. We can always count on Kathy to be super positive, creative and give 110% in what she is doing to help Leyton and the mission of JDRF! We are so thankful and honored to have Kathy as this month’s Everyday Hero!”

What is your T1D story?

My son, Leyton, was diagnosed almost 6 years ago at age 7. He had the typical signs of extreme thirst, lots of trips to the bathroom, and significant weight loss. We went to the doctor, who tested his blood sugar and told us to go straight to the hospital. I made a stop at Kmart on the way and bought a big dragon Lego so he would be entertained. He still tells the story of how he built it, but when his sister came to visit, she dropped it and it broke in pieces. I think that was just as traumatic as the diagnosis at that point in his life!

How did you get connected to JDRF?

While we were in the hospital during Leyton’s diagnosis, another mom whose daughter had T1D brought over a JDRF Bag of Hope. We will always love Rufus, our favorite stuffed animal. The connection to another parent who knew EXACTLY what we were going through at that time of total overwhelming chaos was invaluable for me! I got involved with JDRF right from the start because of that.

What made you stay involved with JDRF?

We will never give up hope for finding a cure! The technologies developed through JDRF funding have significantly reduced the burden of this disease on our lives, even in the short time since Leyton’s diagnosis. We also wish for the day that there will be a preventative vaccination, so that no others have live with T1D. Since JDRF is the leading global organization funding T1D research, I will stay involved until we have that cure!

What would you tell someone who wants to help but doesn’t have a direct connection to T1D?

Unfortunately, the incidence of T1D is increasing dramatically. This means that even if you currently do not know someone living with T1D right now, it is likely that you will know someone in the future. I am always surprised when I meet the JDRF Board Members and volunteers (like our OneWalk Chair!!!) who do not have a direct connection with T1D. These people give time, energy, and money to our cause, and I see that they get great satisfaction out of that and become great friends with many people with T1D. They are excellent examples of how people with no connection to T1D can make a huge difference in a role as big or small as they choose.

Tell us about volunteering at JDRF.

Part of the reason that I volunteer at JDRF is to teach Leyton to give back. There are people working hard all over the world to try to find a cure for T1D and make his life better. At this time in his life, he can contribute by spending time working at the Walk or Gala, speaking at schools or events to educate others, or thanking sponsors. It also gives us the opportunity to make connections with other families also living with T1D.

What does a cure mean to you?

A cure means that kids get to be kids. T1D robs children of the chance to live a carefree life. If my child had the opportunity to put as much time and energy into something that he loved as he has to put into dealing with T1D, I can’t even imagine the possibilities for him!!!