Since its founding in 1970, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has funded more than $1.4 billion in diabetes research. Diabetes already affects some 24 million Americans, and cases are projected to double in the next 25 years. In addition, the cost of treating the disease will almost triple.

    Marie Davis, executive director of JDRF Metro St. Louis/Greater Missouri Chapter, says while the organization is proud of all it has accomplished as it approaches its 40-year milestone, there’s more work to do. “We’re not celebrating yet—we have not yet found our cure,” she says.

    Among the recent and exciting breakthroughs is the ‘artificial pancreas.’ “It’s a combination insulin infusion pump and continuous glucose monitor,” Davis explains. “When the pump and monitor can speak to each other, this means that patients don’t have to figure out a chemical analysis, and more important, they don’t have to poke their fingers anymore.” The product is still in clinical trials, but should go before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the next three to four years. “It’s not a cure, but it’s keeping people healthier longer while we search for the biological cure,” she says.

    JDRF research is funded mainly by private and corporate donations and annual events such as the spring gala and Walk to Cure Diabetes in the fall. “The walk is our largest event and this year, we’re anticipating approximately $1.4 million,” Davis says.

    JDRF’s Passport to a Cure Dream Gala takes place May 8 at the Kemp Auto Museum. “Last year’s New Orleans-themed gala won a very prestigious award from the International Special Events Society in St. Louis as the best produced nonprofit event of 2009,” she says. “This year, we’re visiting three continents: South America, Africa and Asia.” Davis explains that there will be an international tone to the festivities, which include a raffle, live and silent auctions, and a fund-a-cure drive. “Last year, we raised a total of $850,000 for the event,” she says. “Our goal this year is to top that, and make it a million-dollar event.”

    The gala is being co-chaired by Connie Kurowski, her daughter Angela Daubach—who is a senior specialty representative for Astellas Pharma—and Kurowski’s sister, Jennefer Delkus, president of Global Staffing Strategies. “My other daughter, Lizzie, is our inspiration,” Kurowski says. “Lizzie is 16 and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes just two years ago.” Grandparent Gift Campaign co-chairs are John and Joan Schnoebelen, whose 15-year-old grandson Max was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6.

    This year’s gala will recognize Dr William Danforth II as Research Champion. Under his leadership as chancellor of Washington University, Danforth transformed the school into a national research university. “JDRF has supported more than $22 million in diabetes research at Washington University’s School of Medicine,” Davis notes. “We recognize the value of having this prestigious school as part of the team working toward a cure for diabetes and its complications.” Other honorees include Energizer Holdings CEO Ward Klein and Energizer Personal Care president/CEO David Hatfield. They will be recognized as ‘diabetes champions’ for their involvement in last year’s walk. 

On the Cover: The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Passport to a Cure Dream Gala will be held Saturday, May 8, at Kemp Auto Museum. For more information, call Sue at 729-1846, ext. 12, or email cover design by Tara Parkhurst  |  photo by John Lamb  |  set design by Parties and Props