JDRF Heroes and Corporate Partners

The success of the JDRF Children’s Congress is significantly strengthened by a unique collaboration between JDRF advocates, government representatives, and corporate sponsors who combine their resources and their voices to keep type 1 diabetes research moving forward. At the Corporate Partner Recognition Luncheon on June 21, JDRF leadership and delegates recognized two 2011 Children’s Congress Heroes: U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield of Kentucky, and Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This year’s corporate partners also received special awards.

Serving his ninth term in Congress representing Kentucky, Representative Whitfield was honored with a JDRF Hero Award by President and CEO Jeffrey Brewer and Chairman Frank Ingrassia. Representative Whitfield currently serves as Co-chair of the House Diabetes Caucus, the largest caucus in Congress, with 243 members, and, with caucus Co-chair Diana DeGette of Colorado, led a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, signed by all the members, to accelerate progress on artificial pancreas technologies. Representative Whitfield has also championed the renewal of the Special Diabetes Program, a critical program that provides $150 million annually to the National Institutes of Health for type 1 diabetes research. He was introduced by Kentucky delegate Parker Shadoan, 14, and met at the stage by 13-year-old delegate Caroline Cain. “I am pleased to meet young advocates who are working to inform members of Congress about the importance of continued research and advancement in treating [type 1] diabetes,” Representative Whitfield said.

Mr. Brewer and Mr. Ingrassia also honored Dr. Griffin Rodgers of the NIDDK with a JDRF Hero Award. Dr. Rodgers has worked closely with JDRF since 1998, and has served as the research agency’s director since 2007. Dr. Rodgers provided expert testimony during the Children’s Congress Senate hearing on recent advances, including identification of about 50 genes that confer risk for type 1 diabetes and extensive research of potential environmental causes; availability of blood tests that accurately predict risk in relatives of people with type 1 diabetes and numerous trials of potential prevention agents for those at risk; and the development of a new combination therapy for diabetic retinopathy. Committed to finding a cure for diabetes and engaging in key therapies and technologies that will help in managing diabetes, Dr. Rodgers is also pushing forward new, crucial research areas, including new formulations of insulin that are automatically responsive to blood glucose levels; improvements in islet cell transplantation; and artificial pancreas technologies. “Research to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure type 1 diabetes requires a multipronged approach. The NIH focuses on research at all stages of the disease,” he said.

Ross Fasman, a 17-year-old JDRF advocate from New Jersey, was also introduced for remarks. Ross used his firsthand knowledge of type 1 diabetes to help revive a fellow airplane passenger suffering from a severe low blood glucose episode during a flight in April. Ross was recognized for his heroic efforts by his local chapter and at JDRF’s Annual Conference in May.

JDRF also honored its long-standing, dedicated corporate partners:

  • Advance Auto Parts recently received the JDRF President’s Award, which recognizes the top corporate partner that has raised the highest revenue within a fiscal year. For more than 17 years, Advance Auto Parts has been raising money for JDRF.
  • Ford Motor Company is the cornerstone of JDRF’s corporate development program. Since 1983, Ford has raised more than $35 million for diabetes research. Each year, Ford organizes a global fundraising effort in more than 40 locations worldwide.
  • Eli Lilly and Company has funded multimillion-dollar research projects in the area of biomarkers for beta cell mass and function.
  • Sponsorship and air travel support from Delta Air Lines has generated more than $6 million to support JDRF’s research. Delta contributions have also helped to offset JDRF’s travel costs for events such as Children’s Congress, Annual Conference, and Fall Leadership Conference.
  • Medtronic Foundation provides grants to improve the health of people with chronic diseases, educate future generations of scientific innovators, and enhance the communities where it does business.
  • LifeScan, the leading maker of blood glucose monitoring products, has served as the official JDRF National Family Walk Team Sponsor by creating the “Circle of Excellence” program as a way to reward JDRF family Walk teams.