Today, those with Type 1 Diabetes recognize Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International as a nonprofit giant that pumps continual funding into diabetes research. They have relied on and even joined forces with the Foundation for decades both to raise awareness for the disease and to receive key support in living with their condition. But 40 years ago, there was no Foundation and only a fraction of the organized support for people living with the disease.
So how did the organization get started? Would you believe it was one determined mother who kicked off the well-known organization with a cocktail party?
In 1966, U.S. mother Lee Ducat’s nine-year-old son Larry was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. After facing the initial shock and devastation of such news and learning to help her son manage the disease, Ducat eventually asked her son’s physician what she could do to help find a cure. He told her that a good deal more research needed to be done so that new treatments could be developed, or even better, a cure could be found. However, such research required much more financial support than was currently available, he told her.
Ducat began thinking about what she could do to meet that critical need. Not sure where to start, she threw a cocktail party in 1970 for a group of people with a stake in finding new treatments for the disease using a list of clients provided by her doctor. (Check out this great interview she recently did with Philadelphia Magazine’s Be Well blog).
About 60 people showed up to her party, everyone who came signed a makeshift membership application, and the Foundation was born. In the organization’s first year, Ducat and her members started other chapters and raised $10,000.The organization eventually became a 501(c)3 voluntary health organization.
From such humble beginnings, Ducat’s foundation has gone on to raise more than $1.4 billion for diabetes research since its inception and the organization continues to raise $100 million annually. The Foundation not only has a board of directors, but also a scientific advisory board. Today, the Foundation has 100 chapters, branches and affiliates located in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, India and Israel.
This year, recognizing the 40-year anniversary of the organization’s founding, I hope that we can look to Ducat for inspiration, and remember that one person can make a world of difference.