Randie and Bobby Harmelin: One Couple Powers It Up for Their Daughter

Randie and Bobby Harmelin

Since the beginning—November 11, 1994, to be exact—Randie and Bobby Harmelin have answered every call to action. When their daughter Stephanie was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 12, Randie recollects that it “felt like someone ran over us with a steamroller.” But the family rolled up their sleeves and quickly learned how to help their daughter manage the disease. Then they set out to help find a cure.

The couple was introduced to JDRF through friends, and they soon found themselves stuffing envelopes in the Eastern Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter. Since then, they have been very supportive of each other in the work they do for JDRF. Randie admires her husband and says, “Bobby jumped right in. He so desperately wants to find a cure for Stephanie and others that he will do anything to help make that happen. He will do anything that anyone asks of him.” Randie is equally committed. She has a great way of relating with other families living with T1D—her concern and humanity always touch people. So it was only natural that she helped to develop the chapter’s first outreach program.

The couple didn’t stop there. The family participated in its first JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes in 1995 and have been sending out more than 1,000 fundraising letters each year ever since. With more than $1 million raised over the years, the Harmelin family has earned a place in the top-10 family teams nationally for 10 years in a row.

“The Harmelins are the definition of team players,” says Ellen Rubesin, Northeast regional director. “There are no better representatives of JDRF. Between the two of them, they have held almost every leadership role possible.” It’s true. Walk chair, Gala chair, outreach chair, fundraising chair—you name it. Bobby has served as president of the board—twice. Both have served on the Nominating and Search Committees. Randie was outreach chair before serving as stewardship chair. She is also a moderator and volunteer for JDRF’s national Online Diabetes Support Team, a program that connects people who have questions about T1D to the volunteers best suited to help answer those questions.

“I always tell newly diagnosed families that kids adjust faster than their parents,” Randie says. That was certainly the case with Stephanie, who insisted on going to her overnight camp shortly after finding out she had T1D. The camp was very accommodating, and not only did Stephanie continue to attend every summer, she went on to become a camp counselor. Stephanie is now 31 years old and is living her life to the fullest, thanks to encouragement from her parents. She is a practicing social worker and has backpacked through New Zealand and Southeast Asia. When other parents hear of Stephanie’s accomplishments, they are inspired and extremely grateful to Randie and Bobby for showing them such possibilities.

Randie and Bobby know the value of service. They are the first to recognize it in the many other volunteers at their chapter. In fact, “Stewardship” could be their middle name. But for them, it comes naturally. Randie says, “Just saying ‘thank you’ makes a big difference. Not to a group but to each individual. You need to say, ‘That couldn’t have happened without you.’ Volunteers need to know that they matter and that they are heard.”

As for Randie and Bobby, they are not going anywhere until a cure is found. “As long as Stephanie and the millions of others with T1D have to check their blood sugar, as long as we have type 1 diabetes in our lives,” Randie says, “we’re here.”