I remember watching an old episode of House in which a patient, unable to censor his tongue, tells his wife who works in non-profit, “How does blocking traffic for hours find a cure for breast cancer?”
As a JDRF staff member, I can tell you that it is not the traffic blocking that finds cures. It’s not the walking around in a circle twice. It’s not the food, the entertainment or the T-shirts. It’s the money Walkers raise. This money turns into grants for the most promising research in the world. This research will bring us a cure.
I have told many a potential Walker that I am not a scientist. I am not a doctor, and I don’t spend hours in a lab. I am a daughter. My father was diagnosed with diabetes over two decades ago, suffers complications and is at risk to suffer more. The Walk is my way to fight back. All those brilliant scientists and engineers in research and development need money. We fund their research. We encourage donations and thank people for donating by holding a large event to show all the kids, families, adults and their loved ones that they are not alone in their disease. We are here to support a cure and celebrate our efforts. We may block traffic.
I was there at 6am, so no traffic for me. I will give you just one staffer’s perspective of Walk, if you haven’t heard my tale before.
The Walk to Cure Diabetes is just called “Walk” around here. Walk encompasses all, and although other fundraising events also work to fund diabetes research, Walk brings in the most research dollars and most participation from JDRF families and corporate sponsors. Partly because of its size and partly because of its ease. Anybody can very easily become part of the cure by getting involved in Walk.
As a Family Team Captain, Walk is registering, customizing a fundraising page, spreading the word on Facebook, sending out emails and asking for donations. As a JDRF staff member, Walk takes 12 months of the year to coordinate, from cultivating corporate sponsors and Walk teams to event planning and logistics to administrative duties. This year, as Walk started to close in around October until Walk Day last weekend, Walk took three staff members (a fourth flew in the day before) two volunteer managers and their children and 193 Walk Day volunteers, as well as volunteers to lead the efforts in Family Team fundraising and Corporate Team fundraising. I think we may have a two days when Walk isn’t on our desks in some respect. Yes, that’s right, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Walk Day itself is actually a lot less stress-free than the week prior. JDRF staff sacrificed food for coffee and sleep for more coffee in order to complete tasks needed to be done before Walk Day. We have two logistics managers, both volunteers, who know Walk better than any of us. This was their 13th Walk. They gave their expertise, time, and sweat to organize Walk Day.
The day started out smoothly, but cold. I stopped by to see one of our most active volunteers and my good friend who was literally shaking in the cold as she collected money. Mascots arrived to take pictures. The sun came out, and the actual walk began. By the time the walk begins, staff and lead volunteers already walked the length of the route easily by running back and forth. After the walk, our Walkers stay to enjoy lunch, live music and to make sure their kids get their chance on the giant inflatables. Slowly, but surely, attendees make their way to their cars around 1:30pm, cleanup begins, and we all try to grasp the fact that the event is closing. We take time to talk of the day and ponder the future.
This was my last Walk in this particular role for JDRF, and from my description of it, it may seem to you like anyone would be much happier in a participant role, or volunteer role, than as staff. Well, the best part comes from the thank you from families. The hugs of gratitude and the “God bless you for what you do” comments that bring tears to my eyes.
Right now JDRF provides funds for the most promising diabetes research the world has to offer, and provides more funds than any other charitable organization in the world. So while we provide money, we also provide hope. When I get a “thank you” I feel it a thank you for helping families get closer to the day when they can say to their child, “This is it. You don’t have to live like this anymore.” But I won’t give them the cure, they’ll give it to themselves. I just have the distinct honor to watch them do it, to help them do it.