Honouring Peter Oliver’s life and legacy

September 23, 2022 
JDRF is deeply saddened by the loss of an incredible individual who made an unparalleled impact at JDRF, Peter Oliver.  
“Peter possessed a multitude of qualities that defined him as a leader – visionary, credible, trustworthy, respectful, influential, and empowering are just a few of these traits,” said Dave Prowten, President and CEO of JDRF Canada. “His contributions to JDRF are immeasurable and will have a profound impact on the type 1 diabetes (T1D) community for years to come. On a personal level, he was a dear friend and confidante to many of us, and he will be deeply missed.”  
After immigrating to Canada from Cape Town, South Africa and achieving success as an entrepreneur co-founding Oliver & Bonacini restaurants, Peter focused his attention on giving back to his communities. The T1D community was at the top of his list. For over 35 years, Peter gave generously to JDRF as a volunteer and donor while helping raise more than $200 million to find a cure for T1D.  
The day Peter’s daughter Vanessa was diagnosed with T1D was a day that changed the family’s lives forever. It was also the day Peter vowed to do everything in his power to help change the course of this 24/7 disease. Shortly after he began volunteering at JDRF, he founded the JDRF Ride to Defeat Diabetes in 1986, an event that has raised over $70 million and continues to engage thousands of volunteers across the country. He went on to serve on JDRF’s National Board of Directors from 2004-2008 and co-chair the In Our Lifetime Campaign in 2015 — JDRF’s first major gift campaign, which raised $55 million, as well as JDRF’s ongoing $100M Campaign to Accelerate.  
Over the last two years, Peter was a driving force as co-chair of the $100M Campaign to Accelerate. He was instrumental in raising nearly 69% of our $100 million goal in just two years, inspiring the two largest gifts to the campaign to date. He hoped to see the campaign through to completion and spent day and night strategizing new ways to raise the remaining amount. He wanted nothing more than a cure for his daughter and the millions of people around the world living with T1D –  so much so the only regret he expressed before passing was that he was not able to finish the $100 million campaign fundraising efforts – a testament to his belief in the power of this campaign’s impact.  
Recently, Peter came full circle on a labour of love he began 32 years ago when he lived atop a flagpole in Toronto’s Mel Lastman Square to sell raffle tickets for JDRF. Peter was passionate about bringing back his flagpole challenge during the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. In the spring of 2022, he rallied hundreds of people around the country to support five Leaders in History, including his daughter Vanessa, as they lived atop flagpoles for 100 hours, raising millions for type 1 diabetes research. Nearly 100 families nationwide joined the challenge and camped out in solidarity.  

“Peter was a force to be reckoned with and always asked, we need to think bigger. The impact he has had on the T1D community cannot be expressed in words. Because Peter touched everyone he met. He had a unique ability to bring people together and always think bigger. He has had a transformational impact at JDRF and we will forever be grateful, for his leadership, tenacity and friendship.”

– Jessica Diniz, Chief Development Officer

Peter lit up every room he entered with his energy and passion. With a presence larger than life, he made everyone around him feel special. Peter always wanted to make a difference, and his dedication continues to inspire JDRF donors, volunteers, and staff alike. He was relentless on his mission to find a cure, saying: 

“When there is a cure for diabetes – and there will be – it will go down as one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind. We will not stop until there is a cure.”

– Peter Oliver

The JDRF team, galvanized by Peter’s legacy, will continue to raise funds and accelerate research at full speed to achieve the vision they share with Peter of a world without diabetes.

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