Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Stewart

Volunteer_KStewart

A warm embrace

Kathy Stewart doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. No Mentor Program? She’ll start one!  Need the Outreach Program to grow? She’ll do it! Or maybe you just need a compassionate ear after being newly diagnosed with T1D. She’ll give you her undivided attention.

Ever since Kathy’s grandson Marston was diagnosed with T1D at just 14 months old, she has embraced her volunteer work at our Houston Gulf Coast Chapter with gusto. After she helped her daughter and son-in-law through the initial shock of baby Marston’s diagnosis, she immediately began attending every research update, every Outreach Event, and every Walk, gala and golf tournament. She knows the Chapter inside and out, and she has learned the JDRF research portfolio backwards and forwards. She says, “We live in an age where we have the knowledge and the resources available through our research which will allow our children and adults to live life to their potential.”

Understanding firsthand the physical as well as the emotional toll T1D takes on the entire family, she launched a Mentor Program, screening all the applicants herself to make sure that they had good listening skills. Then she started a training program, assigning the appropriate mentors to newly-diagnosed families. The program has been a great success.

Kathy soon joined the Chapter’s Board of Directors and is now the Outreach Chair. She works side by side with the Outreach Manager and comes to the office every day. Molly Naylor, former Houston Gulf Coast Chapter Executive Director and currently a translational writer for JDRF says, “If you have T1D or have a child with T1D, and you are talking to Kathy in person or on the phone, she wraps you up in a warmth that feels like the softest baby blanket you have ever felt. You feel completely safe, understood and cared-for.” She does have a very big heart with more than enough room for anyone who is facing the challenges of T1D. Kathy says, “My hope and dream is to see our Outreach Program grow within our community to be the ‘must go to place’ for any family dealing with T1D. We want each person to know they are not alone on this journey whether they are newly diagnosed or have hit a bump in the road.”

Marston is now a happy 14-year-old. He is doing well but Kathy still sees the family struggle from time to time. She says, “A true cure would mean that my grandson and all people living with T1D could be completely free of the disease. But I am thankful for the research that is bringing better treatment as well as the research that will bring the prevention of this disease. I am thrilled that we can work on all three!” She reflects further and says, “Together, we are on this journey until we can celebrate the cure!”