$100M Campaign to Accelerate: A Labour of Love to Defeat the T1D Monster

The following is a guest blog by Ryan MacDonald, volunteer co-chair of JDRF Canada’s $100M Campaign to Accelerate – JDRF’s bold fundraising campaign to raise $100M by 2025 to accelerate research to defeat the monster known as type 1 diabetes (T1D). Generous donor support is fueling our campaign to help us reach our goal. Ryan provides an update below and shares why he volunteers with JDRF. 

Why I Co-Chair the $100M Campaign to Accelerate

My name is Ryan MacDonald, and I am a dad to a son with type 1 diabetes. Luke, now 13, was diagnosed when he was just five. It was a time in our lives we will never forget. His little body was not acting normal, and we didn’t know why until the doctors gave us the devastating news. Luke had T1D, immediately launching us into a new reality full of unknowns, injections, constant monitoring, and worry. Our family has been involved with JDRF and the T1D community ever since. It’s not a community we asked to be a part of, but we are so grateful for the support, for teaching us resilience, and for our collective ambition to find a cure. Luke and those living with T1D inspire me every day with their bravery which is one reason I am so committed to working with JDRF to find a cure.

One incredible T1D family in this community is the Oliver family. Peter Oliver was my campaign co-chair, confidant, and friend. It was truly an honour to co-chair the campaign with Peter for over two years before he sadly passed away in 2022. Peter had a charismatic and sincere energy that motivated everyone to work even harder to find cures for this disease. He was a T1D father too, driven to create a better future for his daughter, Vanessa, who is also a lead campaign volunteer.

Like the original founders of JDRF in the 1970s, we are a group of families and T1D community members whose lives are forever changed by this 24/7 disease and who want nothing more than to exceed our $100M goal and accelerate a cure. Peter never slowed his fundraising efforts in more than 30 years, and we will carry on his meaningful legacy. For Peter and the 300,000 Canadians impacted by T1D, I am committed to helping JDRF and my fellow volunteers exceed our campaign goal. This is a promise we will keep for Peter and for everyone living with T1D.

Where We Are Now

Generous donors helped us achieve incredible early campaign success. Industry leaders stepped forward to spearhead challenges in the commercial real estate and wealth management sectors, galvanizing corporate Canada. Let’s Make History Again raised critical awareness and record-breaking donations for JDRF. Temerty Foundation’s gift of $10M, the largest single donor contribution to T1D research, helped bring us to the over $72M raised as of today. This nationwide effort is a tremendous testament to the community, and we are so grateful.

But now, it’s time to challenge ourselves again.

 We need our community’s continued support. The $100M Campaign to Accelerate is a major gift campaign, meaning the $100 million will be raised through gifts of $5,000 or more to ensure we accelerate our shared mission of finding a cure and improving lives, making the greatest impact on the T1D community. These gifts can be made by a single donor, a family, a business, a foundation, or a group collectively donating the full amount at once.

What the Campaign Supports

Campaign gifts are needed to fuel our mission, accelerating initiatives such as:

matching partnership with the federal government through the JDRF-CIHR Partnership to Defeat Diabetes, in which the Canadian Institutes of Health Research match 1:1 all donor investments in this partnership. This partnership supports 19 high-impact projects in stem cell cure research, mental health, and more, as well as a new nationwide screening research consortium in Canada. 

When I think of how traumatic it was when doctors diagnosed my son, I can only imagine how much less scary and dangerous it would have been had he been screened for the autoantibodies of T1D first. And with companies developing drugs now that can delay and possibly prevent the disease, kids and adults with T1D autoantibodies can live more carefree years. Major gifts to the JDRF-CIHR partnership have the power to do this. 

New Research Trainees and Clinical trials in Canada and worldwide. JDRF funding helps research that gets to the clinical trial stage. JDRF also helps to promote T1D trials across Canada, whether JDRF-funded or not. Clinical research is the best way to accelerate scientific discovery from the lab to patients. Many clinical trial scientific teams include new diabetes researchers bringing in novel, out-of-the-box ideas or belonging to startups leveraged by donor dollars. 

Think of how the pandemic ignited the medical field and brought in new researchers to fast-track clinical trials for the COVID vaccine. Donating to JDRF’s Global Research pillar or T1D Fund accelerates worldwide innovation to bring T1D cures and treatments to people faster. 

Canada’s first JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia, which is laser-focused on cures. World-renowned BC researchers are collaborating in unique ways to speed up cure therapies. Donors who support the Centre with gifts of $25,000 and up are featured on a beautiful permanent donor wall at UBC.

I went to Vancouver last year to visit the Centre and was blown away by the breadth and pace of cure research. It gives me so much hope for Luke to have his diabetes cured in the future!  

Access for All, JDRF Canada’s program that works with the T1D community to advocate provincial and federal government for better device coverage, treatment access, and research funding. Since the launch of the program, donors have helped our advocates improve diabetes device (advanced glucose monitors and insulin pumps) coverage in eight provinces and inspired federal research funding. Continued donor support will help to further remove inequities by lowering out-of-pocket diabetes costs, ensuring patient choice, and reducing or eliminating diabetes-related emergencies, thereby easing the strain on the healthcare system.

I live in Alberta with my family now, but I grew up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Both provinces have their healthcare challenges. In Alberta, we are fortunate that JDRF advocates have lobbied for changes to insulin pump and advanced glucose monitor coverage, meaning my son’s tech will be covered until he is at least 18. But in Nova Scotia, no coverage exists for advanced glucose monitors, and people must pay out of pocket for these expensive devices or still use the less reliable finger-prick method. 

JDRF’s Mental Health Strategy for T1D to fill critical gaps support. People with diabetes are more likely to experience mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders and can benefit from interventions that prevent or treat these mental health conditions. But standard care for diabetes doesn’t always address mental health concerns, despite evidence that mental health challenges affect the physical management of the disease. Donors to this strategy are directly addressing this vital and underserved need in Canadian healthcare by funding research studies testing different mental health interventions, supporting education initiatives, and investing in a bilingual Mental Health + Diabetes Training Program for Canadian mental health providers who can then apply to be listed in our national directory where people living with T1D can connect with a mental health provider in their area.

Beyond the overwhelming burden of self-care, diabetes can be life-threateningly stigmatizing. My son used to turn his glucose alarms off at school to avoid drawing attention to himself, which could have had dire consequences. The mental health impact of T1D is profound, and I am so glad Canadians are rallying behind this critical area of diabetes care. 

We need supporters now more than ever to help us reach our $100M goal and get us closer to a world finally free from the monster known as type 1 diabetes. We cannot do it without you.

You can contact me at ryan@jdrf.ca or reach out to Nicole Robson, VP of Philanthropy at JDRF, at nicole@jdrf.ca to learn more about how you can support the $100M Campaign to Accelerate.

On behalf of my family and the JDRF family, thank you!

Donor Spotlight: The Commercial Real Estate 100 Challenge

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, JDRF launched the $100M Campaign to Accelerate – a bold initiative to help finally free people from the monster that is type 1 diabetes (T1D). Though the pandemic posed challenges across industry, individuals working in commercial real estate came together to help JDRF achieve its ambitious fundraising goal.

JDRF volunteer John O’Bryan initiated the 100 Challenge asking 100 leaders from the commercial real estate sector to each contribute towards a $1 million goal. Together with campaign volunteers Yogini Narine, Vanessa Oliver, Fred Rubinoff, Peter Senst, and Chris Tambakis, along with more than 100 of their fellow colleagues across Canada, they succeeded!

Their contributions will be matched as part of JDRF’s partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The result is an incredible $2 million to fund the path to a cure for T1D.

JDRF was able to talk to John about what drove him to organize this challenge, and why helping to slay the T1D monster is so important to him and his fellow volunteers.

*Please note that some of the answers have been edited for clarity and length.

JDRF: How did you get involved with JDRF?

John O’Bryan: I have no personal connection with diabetes. With me, it was more that as an organization (CBRE) where I was the chairman and am now still the honorary chairman, they were very committed to the Ride. I got involved in the first year and really enjoyed it – enjoyed the people, enjoyed the event, I enjoyed bringing together lots of different people in the industry. And then Dave (Prowten, JDRF President & CEO) gave me a call just before Christmas and spoke to me about your plans for the 100th anniversary. Based on that conversation, I became involved with the Campaign to Accelerate.

JDRF: How did the idea for the 100 Challenge campaign come about?

John O’Bryan: I understood the significance of the 100th anniversary, and so the fact that the $100 million goal was synchronistic with the nature of the number wasn’t lost on me. And it was certainly not an unambitious number.

I came up with this concept of the 100, which was to try and get 100 real estate executives to contribute towards a $1 million goal. I then went back to Dave and laid out the whole campaign for the 100 to see if it was something he felt that JDRF could embrace.

JDRF: How did you manage to do it so quickly?

John O’Bryan: I chatted with a couple of friends of mine. Ken Silva at CBRE said “If you embark on this campaign, I’m in.” And Yogini Narine on his executive team jumped on board and said, “whatever logistical help you need, I’ll help.” They were very supportive and instrumental in helping me out.

What I wanted to do was engage people on the fundraising side of JDRF, the volunteers who are in the real estate business – Chris Tambakis, Vanessa Oliver and Fred Rubinoff, all of whom I knew.  And I tried to come up with a list of names and tried to get the number to about 50. We went from Newfoundland to BC, and I think in every province in Canada, we got representation.

The idea was not to engage companies but to engage people. These were quintessentially personal donations. But basically, an entire industry rallied around this campaign and so I thought it would inspire others.

I think due to the pandemic, people were ready to embrace things that were helpful. I think it was at a time when there was certainly a very receptive audience for this message.

The speed, to be honest with you, did surprise me. I think that was a combination of the cause, the relationship we had with those individuals, but most of all, it was the real estate community. I’ve been in this industry since 1972. It has always been and has accelerated over the years to be a wonderfully warm community. It welcomed me in as an immigrant, and it has grown to a point now where it’s a major force for good. 

JDRF: Why is this particular 100 Challenge campaign unique?

John O’Bryan: To some extent, I don’t think it is. One of things that I’ve noticed when your life has been touched by tragedy like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, you become very committed to the cause and sometimes it’s hard to understand why other people aren’t as committed as you are. And obviously it’s simple when you stand back, which is that they’ve got causes that speak to them.

The easier part of the conversations I had was that you really don’t have to explain diabetes to anybody. If it hasn’t touched your family, it has certainly touched people around us. There were times when I got off the phone and I might have had another call scheduled, but I had to cancel a couple of them because they were very emotional calls.

JDRF: What’s your hope for the Campaign to Accelerate?

John O’Bryan: The hope is that we can move the dial for people. The hope is – all research takes twists and turns and nothing is ever easy when you’re working with diseases – but you just want to make people’s lives better.

If you live in Canada and you’ve achieved any sort of success in your business, you’re such a small fraction of both the population of Canada and more importantly, of the planet. You’re in such a privileged position. It’s something that I think lots of people feel and believe and we’re all looking for ways and outlets to express that. And it’s to give back. I can’t think of a better expression than to pay it forward. Help other people. Just do your best to reach out and help.

With this campaign, you’re trying to raise $100 million, and you start with $10,000. That’s the essence of it. You must start somewhere. That to me, was the whole rationale behind the 100 Challenge campaign. If you can raise $1 million, you’ve only got 99 to go. And then when the other campaigns started to lift off, you might be able to make a significant dent in $100 million. People were very happy to contribute en masse.

JDRF thanks John O’Bryan and his co-contributors in the commercial real estate industry for their incredible contribution to the Campaign to Accelerate. The matched donation will contribute $2 million towards vital type 1 diabetes research. John hopes to spur other industries to hold similar challenges of their own.

Joseph and Rosalie Segal and their family give a transformative gift to help fund JDRF’s Centre of Excellence at UBC

Joseph Segal is a 96-year-old World War II vet and renowned business tycoon. As the founder of Fields stores and President of Kingswood Capital Corporation, Joseph Segal has built an impressive empire, but perhaps his most tremendous success comes in the form of his and his family’s philanthropy. Recently, JDRF was the recipient of his family’s incredible generosity, receiving a $1 million contribution to fund the JDRF Centre of Excellence at the University of British Columbia as part of its Campaign to Accelerate.

This Centre will be the first of its kind in Canada, among just four others worldwide. In Vancouver, world-class researchers are poised to bring therapies to the clinical testing stage to cure T1D and positively impact other autoimmune diseases. 

The JDRF Centre of Excellence will be a game-changer for T1D research. Joseph and Rosalie Segal and their family have helped to set that change in motion.

JDRF had the opportunity to speak to Joseph and his grandson Danny Miller about what prompted their contribution.  See the interview below from May 13, 2021:
JDRF: Mr. Segal, Please tell us more about what causes you feel strongly about and why?

Joseph Segal: I could sum it up in one word: everything.

We feel that every cause that has a genuineness to it is important. So I could say mental health, I could say Vancouver General Hospital, I could say education because education is the answer to most of the tragedy in the world. So every cause is important. But, there are other causes that most people don’t look at when you have a situation – an individual who needs a little bit of help – maybe $5,000, maybe $3,000, perhaps $10,000; and they don’t know where to turn. They have nowhere to turn. Those are causes that are below the surface, and those are the causes that are important because it gives the individual a little bit of encouragement. It makes the individual feel that you care. Those are the causes that go unseen. But those are the causes that have as much impact as giving to what everybody else gives to.

So, you have to have somebody who you can look to who will give you a hand. That’s simple. And that’s a very necessary part of society that is, to a large degree, overlooked.

JDRF: Mr. Segal, why is giving important to you personally?

Joseph Segal: You have an obligation in society to give because you truly feel you want to give. That is a different situation than giving because you have to give.

I can remember days when I didn’t have that much, and my first major contribution was $100,000, which was the value of my house. So, I was essentially giving away my house. But, I thought, I’ll make it back. So, it’s not a question of saying, I’m giving back –  you have to say I’m giving what I can.

The individual who gives $2,000 is equally as important as the individual who gives $1 million because nobody gives anything that they’re going to miss. But the $2,000 contributor is probably going to feel it more than the $1 million contributors.

JDRF: Mr. Segal, how do you and Rosalie make decisions on what to fund?

Joseph Segal: Most people probably have a dialogue, and they try to determine if it’s important or not important. I’ve been married 73 years next month, and in 73 years, I have never, ever had a difference of opinion or discussion around any charity that we decided to support. She has charities that I don’t even think about to support. I have charities, make a decision, make a commitment, and fulfill the commitment. That’s the end of it. We do it together.

There has never been a difference of opinion to what is necessary because when the cause is right, it doesn’t matter who makes the decision. If you can, you support the cause to whatever degree you feel inclined.

JDRF: Mr. Segal, what made you become our first donor to the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC?

Joseph Segal: There are many reasons that I did it, but the first reason is that it’s worthy.

There are many causes that are universal, and diabetes is universal. It’s an important step towards solving a major problem. It is like the vaccination for COVID-19, if you didn’t have it, what would you have? Chaos around the world. So, it is not about the obligation to find a solution but about the will to find a solution to one of the problems that are so important in society. Juvenile diabetes is one thing, and then as you become an adult, you still have diabetes because there is no solution to it. Because I have had an exposure with a family member or two who have suffered from diabetes, and it’s a debilitating disease if you don’t manage it. People that don’t have it probably don’t understand the necessity of managing it properly.

So, you’re not just doing a good job, you’re fulfilling a major need for the community, and if you get this off the ground, if they find just a little bit of a cure – a partial cure – open the window and let the fresh air in, that’s what you’re trying to do.

Once you find a solution, you will enhance the lives of so many people, and that was the reason.

JDRF: Mr. Segal, a major component of the Centre of Excellence, is being flexible and adapting as the research changes. How does that adaptability align with your business ethos?

Joseph Segal: If you want to be successful in life, you need flexibility. You can go down the road, and you can say “I am on the right road” and you can drive 100 kms, and then you’ll say “I’m maybe on the wrong road”. So, when you’re into research, and I’m not familiar with research, but I can imagine that when you’re in research, you’ll find something you didn’t anticipate. And maybe that opens up a whole new road, and you pursue that road instead of the other road.

Without flexibility, it can take twice as long to find the answer and find the road.

You have to be optimistic too. You have to believe that the mission you’re on will have an end and that you’ll be happy with it. If all your researchers have the same attitude, then their profession is going to yield results.

JDRF: Mr. Segal, where did your philanthropic value system come from, and how have you instilled it throughout your family?

Joseph Segal: When we got married 73 years ago, I didn’t have anything; I was in the army and overseas in Europe (Belgium, Germany).  When I came back and saw my wife, I said “That’s the girl of my dreams,” and I married her. We both set the example for our children and, fortunately, they have the same attitude.  They’re involved in different areas and different communities. I attribute that entirely to my wife.

I don’t have any words of wisdom. All I know is that you have a cause. The cause is legitimate, the cause is vital and if we can do a little bit to further the development and the understanding of this disease, then we will have contributed to the world;  like Banting (and Best) with insulin.  

I’m not telling you that to impress you. That has been the attitude that I have lived with all my life.

Joseph and Rosalie’s grandson Danny Miller is the co-Chair of the JDRF Centre of Excellence Campaign, and Danny’s son Cody has T1D:
JDRF: Mr. Miller, how have your grandparents’ legacy of generosity inspired you?

Danny Miller: Well, how can it not inspire you?

I’ve heard Grandpa say many times that it doesn’t matter whether it’s $2,000 or $2 million; you give what you can if the cause is worthy. And that’s exactly right. What might be a little to me might make a huge difference to somebody else, and that’s always been in the back of my mind. So, I try to live that way, and so do my wife Jennifer and our kids.

It’s really inspiring to see the generosity and the fact that no cause is too small or too unimportant as long as it’s worthy and genuine, then it’s important to support it. That’s what I’ve learned.

JDRF: Mr. Miller,  what does the JDRF Centre of Excellence at UBC mean for you?

Danny Miller: Freedom. Being able to relax and not worry about what’s going to happen to my kid at any given time.

Vancouver is already a world-leading research hub for type 1 diabetes research, so the opportunity to take all those world-class researchers and bring them all together and make 1+1 =3 is something that I couldn’t NOT support.

It’s something we had to support because it’s just too obvious, the need. If you take an important cause and bring the best people together and help them work together even better, only good things can happen.

To my grandparents, I’ve said this to you before, thank you so much for taking the lead on this because it’s really important to me and Jen and my parents and Cody and his brothers. It’s just a really important cause and thank you.

JDRF thanks Joseph and Rosalie Segal and their family for their incredible generosity. Their contributions will help to accelerate the most promising research into cures and help us one day realize a world free from type 1 diabetes.