Everyday Hero Award: Meet Jerry Keselman

If you’ve met Jerry, you’ve likely felt his passion for Ride Weekend. But, Jerry’s passion for his friends and family is what really moves us. Jerry talks about the friends he’s made through JDRF at each ride weekend over the years and how he continues to ride for all the positive advancements he’s seen during that time. Whether he’s volunteering at Type One Nation Summit, the One Dream Gala, or recruiting Riders, Jerry always has a smile on his face. We’re so proud to have Jerry Keselman on our team and as this month’s Everyday Hero. His story embodies the spirit of our Ride Program.


What is your T1D story?

My niece Kelly was diagnosed at age 2, 13 years ago.  Since I was not her primary caregiver, my knowledge of T1D came from elsewhere.  When I joined the Ride to Cure program a year later I started meeting people from all over the country, and all over the world, who each had their own individual stories about themselves, family members, and friends.  In addition to learning about Kelly from her parents, I learned about all of my new friends and what they live with every day.  The first time I saw an insulin pump was on the bus ride from the airport to the Ride venue my first year.  I’ve seen all the advances that JDRF has helped fund over the last decade by staying involved.

I’ve now ridden in 13 JDRF Rides to Cure over the last 11 years.  Five years ago I got my wife-to-be Cheryl involved in Ride, and this year was her 5th Ride.  My good friend Murray, who was my college roommate (quite a while back), has now ridden in his 3rd Ride, initially due to my cajoling, but now he feels he is part of the Ride to Cure program as well!

At this point Kelly is 15.  She joined Ride to Cure herself 3 years ago.  Her first year she rode 30 miles, and last year she completed a Metric Century (100 km or 62 miles).  This year she was adamant about completing her first full Century ride – 100 miles.  I rode the entire 100 miles with her in Saratoga Springs in September.  It was awesome!  I knew I’d have to hold back tears as we crossed the finish line together, but I was able to keep it together!


How did you get connected to JDRF?

A year after Kelly’s diagnosis, her dad Bill asked if I was interested in riding in the JDRF Ride to Cure.  I’d been biking to raise money for other non-profit organizations like the MS Society for most of the previous 10 years, but I’d stopped a year or so before and was looking for a new cause.  We both decided to ride in Death Valley our first year in 2009.  We figured even if people weren’t going to donate to our Rides to support JDRF, how could they turn down our fundraising requests for our endeavor to ride somewhere with “Death” in the title!  Well, we were right about that.  I’ve now ridden in Death Valley six times, as well as riding twice in Lake Tahoe, once each in Nashville and Burlington, and the last three years in Saratoga Springs.

I had a tough time on the bike in Death Valley my first ride, and knew that I had to go back the next year.  Our chapter (Mid-Jersey at the time) had a very small ride program, and after about 6 riders the first year, Bill and I were the chapter’s only riders in Death Valley.  At the turn around point for me, 45 miles in, I met 6 riders from the Western Michigan Chapter, and rode the entire ride back with them (*Nobody* rides alone in Death Valley!).  I have been fast friends with all of them ever since.  For several years, until our chapter’s team grew somewhat, I was an “adopted” Western Michigan rider – from the “Eastern” part of Western Michigan – also known as “Jerry from Jersey”.


What made you stay involved with JDRF?

The hope that a cure will be found through all our fundraising efforts has kept me involved. I’ve met a ton of people through the Ride Program and through other chapter events and staying involved with JDRF has helped me maintain relationships throughout the years.  We all have a sense of family working towards one goal.


How has JDRF impacted your life?

I don’t know where I’d be without JDRF. It is one of the biggest parts of my life.


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

There are so many things you can do even if you are not living with T1D day to day.  There are many different fundraising efforts you can take part in – obviously the Ride to Cure program is near and dear to my heart, but there is Walk, Gala, individual events that different chapter members develop that you can help with, etc.  If you are committed to raising money there are *so many* events you can get involved with at JDRF to help raise money.

There are a lot of educational events that help grow your knowledge as well.  Type One Nation is very informative.  I encourage everyone to attend.  I’ve also learned a lot attending different information sessions that are held during Ride weekends.


You also volunteer at JDRF- tell us about that?

The large Michigan Ride team gave me a goal – to grow our chapter’s Ride team to something we can be proud of.  Several years back I was asked to be the chapter’s “Ride Champion” – to help with recruiting, fundraising, and spreading the word about the Ride Program.   I love the position, and I’m very proud that our chapter has grown to over 60 riders, and that we were the top fundraising chapter at the Saratoga Springs ride for the past two years.  If anyone has *any* questions about possibly joining the Ride program – please reach out – I’m always here to help!

I’ve been attending Walks to help over several years.  As much to help spread the word about the Ride Program as anything, but it’s great to see everyone’s enthusiasm.  The lower age limit for Ride is 13 years old – I get to see much younger kids at Walks, which is always fun.

I’ve also attended the last three Type One Nation events for the chapter.  I help staff a table to help with Ride recruitment along with other coaches and team members, but I really get a lot out of hearing the speakers at the event.  If you go please stop by the Ride table to say hi!

This year I also helped out at the Gala at Moorland Farms.  That was quite an eye opener.  I learned that I’m not necessarily the best salesperson, but I really enjoyed seeing everyone there with one goal in mind – Turn Type One to Type None!  The generosity of the attendees is breathtaking!


What does a cure mean to you?

Finding a cure would make so many people I know – family and friends – so incredibly happy.  The worry and the feeling of an ax hanging over everyone’s head would disappear.  The sense of freedom and exhilaration in the community would be indescribable.

People in the Ride to Cure program are often asked – “What will you do when a cure is found?”  Everyone, to a person, always says – the Ride program will not end – instead of riding to fund research to find a cure – we will all get together and ride to *celebrate* the cure.