My experience with the JDRF Northeast Ohio Chapter has been both rewarding and eye-opening. I joined the organization in the last couple of years as a board member based on recommendation from a colleague of mine who is also on the board. He encouraged me to consider joining a charitable board because he thought I would enjoy the professional interactions and could lend some of my professional services and insight as a lawyer all while working toward the common goal of the organization itself.
JDRF appealed to me because of my strong feelings and political position in favor of stem cell research. I knew if I joined this particular organization, I could help further the work done in this area as well as other important areas of research involving auto-immune diseases.
When I first joined the board, I became a member of two subcommittees, Marketing and Government Relations. The Marketing committee allows me to work in areas I generally haven’t explored professionally. The work is challenging, moves at a fast pace, and we are able to see the fruits of our labors fairly quickly.
Government Relations has allowed me to further my advocacy and lobbying skills. In fact, in the last few months I had the opportunity to meet with the legislative aides for our Ohio Members of Congress and Senators while in Washington D.C. and to speak to them about the importance of signing the bill to fund the Special Diabetes Program. We’re making headway in this area and expect that most of our Representatives and Senators will continue to support this important funding vehicle. I also participated in setting up our Promise to Remember Me campaign meetings with our Members of Congress and Senators while they’re visiting their Ohio offices. I attended one of those meetings with Representative LaTourette along with a couple of local families and their children who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Those meetings are emotional and encouraging. I can’t say enough about the access we have to our elected officials and how much they welcome these kinds of meetings and interactions. The meetings I attended in both D.C. and here in Cleveland have renewed my faith in our political process and system. Who would have thought?
During my visit in D.C., I had the chance to meet a handful of children who have recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. To hear their stories, to see their struggles and triumphs is quite moving. To learn about the various new medical technologies and devices that are allowing them to live more normal lives is encouraging. To witness their strength in dealing with the challenges of type 1 diabetes will move anyone to tears. Interacting with these kids brings home the daily struggles of dealing with type 1 diabetes. It’s hard to avoid the emotional nature of the stories when a child describes the moment by moment monitoring involved in their lives, the questions about when and what they can eat at any moment, whether playing a sport or engaging in any activity will throw them over their limit. It’s sometimes even more difficult to watch the mothers of these kids as they try to be strong for their children, put on a happy face, and hide their profound sadness for their children because of the illness they have to endure. It’s these types of interactions that remind me of the importance of providing my time and energy to JDRF. It’s all worth it.
Additionally, over time, I have been able to develop some nice relationships with other board members and the JDRF NEO management team, including our Executive Director, Laura Chalker, Rosie Mewhinney, and Kim DeGardeyn. I’ve had the opportunity to attend several social events including the Cleveland Walk at the Metroparks Zoo, our Spring Fling, and the annual gala (a great excuse to buy a new fancy dress each year!), as well as raise dollars in the effort to assist in the prevention, treatment, and cure of type 1 diabetes. We really are making progress both on a national and local level.
My overall experience with JDRF has been quite enjoyable, sometimes challenging, and very rewarding. I would encourage anyone interested in joining this particular organization as a member or a board member to do so. Your interest and support can only help further our goal to find the appropriate treatments and a cure for this horrible disease. Please consider getting involved.
- Lynn Major
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