The necessary evolution of how we fund a cure


“Our Ride first started with 8 stationary bikes and 20 people.”

Peter Oliver, one of the founders of the Oliver and Bonacini Restaurant Family and a passionate leader in the type 1 diabetes community, was there at the beginning, “I was Chair of Fundraising for the JDRF Toronto Chapter,” says Peter “and I’m not exactly sure where the idea of the stationary bikes came from, but we were looking for a way to engage the corporate community.”

One of JDRF’s signature fundraising events to raise money for a cure to type 1 diabetes (T1D), the Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF will see over 12,000 people come together across the country to raise $3.6 million in 2019. But it wasn’t always like this.

“In that first year we raised $12,000,” said Peter. “There was a lot of music, bells, and we quickly realized that this event had potential because people were excited. You could see the excitement on the bike.” After that first year, the Ride saw incredible growth as a fundraising event with both the number of participants and the total dollars raised increasing exponentially. “That first year, about half of the twenty people had a connection to type 1 diabetes while the other half didn’t, they came back because of the spirit of the event.”

The Ride has always been a means to an end – a cure for type 1 diabetes – but making it a fun and impactful event has been of the utmost importance. As the event grew, people from different corners of the corporate world began to participate and all of a sudden the Ride started to evolve. “I’m not sure when we started to establish a ‘banking challenge’ and a ‘real estate challenge’, it was just the natural evolution of the event, ” Peter recalls.  “These changes were just what we had to do. When you’re hustling, you move with ideas that work.”

Peter’s hustle to find a cure for type 1 diabetes is fueled by his daughter, Vanessa, who at the age of 6 was diagnosed with T1D. Like any father, he can’t help but talk about his daughter’s accomplishments, “she actually established the Real Estate Ride and has raised $4-$6 million through that alone. I don’t think there is anybody her age who has done more for JDRF than she has.”

The Ride has since become an important corporate event that mobilizes business leaders to raise money to fund ground-breaking T1D research while offering a fun team-building opportunity and engage employees in corporate social responsibility. Where this event is today is because of the commitment and forward-thinking perspective people like Peter and Vanessa have brought.

So we asked Peter, what’s next?

“There are plenty of people who have been participating for 12 years or more, but we can’t rest on our laurels, says Peter. “The ingenuity in changing the event today has to be the same as what we did that first year.”

Following Peter’s advice, we decided to innovate in the way we recognize our fundraising superstars this year. Because innovation in these types of events isn’t just about staying on-trend, it’s also about recognizing the fundraising success of participants and thanking them in increasingly special ways. That’s why 2019 will be the first year Ride team participants who raise the qualifying amounts below will receive personalized team apparel* to wear on event day.

The Sun Life Ride to Defeat Diabetes for JDRF is, at its core, a fundraising event and thanking participants for their work is of the utmost importance. Canadians can register for their local Ride today, either as members of a team or as an individual, and as Peter notes, they don’t need to be personally connected to type 1 diabetes, “We’ve been quite successful in engaging people with no connection to diabetes. It’s an opportunity for us to inform people about the disease.”

“[At the Ride] we introduce a notable member of the community – someone who has raised the most amount of money or a child that wants to thank participants for raising money. Constantly reinforcing why participants raise the money that they do.” Be part of Ride as it continues to evolve and help change the future of type 1 diabetes research.


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