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Clubwoman Marian St. Clair Puts Her Bike Where Her Heart Is to Help Find a Cure for Juvenile Diabetes

Have you ever gotten up early on a Saturday and decided it was a good day to bike 62 miles? For most of us, the answer is clearly “No,” but for Marian St. Clair (St. Andrews Woman's Club, Columbia, S.C., and GFWC Roper Mountain Woman's Club, Greenville, S.C), on September 22 the answer was not merely, “Yes,” but “Yes, because I promised I would.”

Marian successfully participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Ride to Cure Diabetes. In just under six hours, Marian completed her goal of cycling a metric century (62 miles), plus an extra five miles for a total of 67 miles of cycling through beautiful Whitefish, Montana, located on the western slopes of Montana's northern Rocky Mountains, just outside of Glacier National Park.

To participate in the ride, Marian and the 967 other riders for 2007 were required to raise a minimum of $4,000. Along with training for three months—riding her bike at least three times a week for a total of at least 50 miles per week, and working with a personal trainer—Marian worked hard to raise the funds. To date, she has received 89 individual donations totaling $4,770, and continues to receive donations since her ride.

The Ride to Cure Diabetes in Whitefish, Mont., on Sept. 22 raised $524,755.85, although that number changes daily as more money is still coming in. To date this year, the Ride program has raised more than $3 million and is expected to exceed $4 million once all the monies have been collected.

Many contributors to Marian’s ride were GFWC friends from around the country. In her letter to ask for support, Marian shared her motivation and experience with the Ride for the Cure, for which her husband Tim serves as National JDRF Cycling Coach.

Through one of my dearest friends, Lu Bigalke, I've learned what it's like to have a child with juvenile diabetes… In 2003, my husband, Tim, cycled in the JDRF Ride for the Cure in honor of Katie [Lu Bigalke’s college-age daughter who lives with juvenile diabetes]. Since that time, Tim has participated in 10 rides and now serves as the National JDRF Cycling Coach. Because of Tim's efforts, I'm touched by the lives of many children with diabetes.

One of those children is Jessi Davison, a vibrant and active 10 year-old who was diagnosed at age 3. Like many 5th graders, Jessi loves to read, bike, swim, and hike. Last year she was a cheerleader; this year, her interest is dance. Jessi has a knack for public speaking, and was selected as an anchor for her school's closed circuit TV show.

Jessi and her family are very passionate about funding a cure for diabetes. Their efforts have encouraged many to participate in JDRF walks and galas under the "Jammin 4 Jessi" slogan. [This year,] I plan to join Tim … to honor Jessi and to help fund her cure. Like her family and many friends, I want insure that Jessi's future continues to include all the things that make her life full and happy.

Marian set her fundraising goal at $6,200 and asked supporters to send her the names of their loved ones who have been affected by diabetes, so that she could wear their names on her jersey during the ride. She promised to pedal a metric century (62 miles) for Jessi and all the others on her jersey, or “fall off the bike trying.”

She received 42 names, and says that having those names on her jersey was a big help when the going got tough near the end of the ride. One request, in particular, was especially touching. Bobbie Wilhite (GFWC-SC Walhalla Woman's Club) asked Marian to honor her first husband, Leonard Ballard, who died from diabetes related complications. The day that Marian rode in Montana, September 22, was Leonard’s birth date.

PHOTO: Marian St.Clair, with her husband and National Head Cycling Coach for JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes Tim St.Clair, in Whitefish, Mont., Sept. 22, 2007.

Riding a bike for 30, 50 or 100 miles is a major personal challenge, and represents the challenges that diabetic children face every day of their lives. Many Ride to Cure Diabetes riders are not avid cyclists, so the commitment they are agreeing to—raising $4,000 as well as riding a bike as many miles as they chose—shows the dedication and spirit that these volunteers have to help find a cure for this disease.

Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1 billion to diabetes research, including more than $122 million in FY2006. More than 80 percent of JDRF's expenditures directly support research and research-related education. In FY2006, the Foundation funded 500 centers, grants and fellowships in 20 countries.

Marian continues to support the mission of the JDRF, to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research as soon as possible. She is $4,770 closer to her goal of $6,200, and has pledged to continue her participation as a rider or volunteer at future rides. “When I crossed the finish line, I had a real sense that seemingly impossible things can happen. Who would have thought that I could ride a bike 62 miles?” Marian says. “That's part of what the JDRF Ride to Cure is about—empowering volunteers to exceed their personal limitations, in the same way that JDRF empowers medical researchers to break barriers to cure diabetes.”

So, can 91 people find a cure for diabetes somewhere in Montana? For Marian St. Clair, the 89 individuals who contributed to her ride, and Jessi Davison, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

The next question, then, is "Where will 4,000 GFWC clubs find their opportunity to help?"

»Answer Marian St. Clair's call to action, or click here to send her an e-mail to find out more about her experience.


»Educate Yourself

»Inform Others

»Create Change

No matter how you choose to get involved in the fight against diabetes, remember to report your activities to GFWC.


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