Each year, more than 30,000 children and adults—approximately eighty people per day—are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States. That diagnosis for Dan Hayward ’00 came on May 4, 2007. “It was the scariest day of my life,” he said.
Before his diagnosis, Dan lost nearly twenty pounds and suffered from a constant, dull headache. Finally, a simple blood test revealed the cause. “It was tough news. It was a punch in the gut that I didn’t expect,” Dan said. “I had no idea what type 1 diabetes was. My family had no history. I was twenty-nine.”
Type 1 diabetes often is diagnosed in children and young adults but can strike at any age. The autoimmune disease causes a person’s pancreas to stop producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from the food they eat. To compensate for this bodily malfunction, those with type 1 diabetes must carefully balance doses of insulin with strict meals and activities each day.
“It’s life changing, but manageable,” Dan admitted. “Many years ago, the diagnosis meant a death sentence. Today, if you manage it, eat right, and exercise, you can live a very long, healthy life.”
Within a month of discovering he had type 1 diabetes, Dan contacted the Central Pennsylvania Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). “I attended several meetings and got a better sense of how I could help.”
One year into his diagnosis, Dan wanted to be involved with the Central Pennsylvania JDRF in every way he could. He joined the Walk to Cure Diabetes in 2008 and became the Ride to Cure chair, a major gift chairman, and joined the JDRF board in 2009, where today he is board president.
“JDRF is the largest supporter of type 1 diabetes research. The goal of our foundation is to accelerate progress on the cure, treatment, and prevention of the disease.
As board president, Dan is the voice of the organization. He educates children and young adults about ways to manage the disease and helps to identify major contributors, explaining to them where the money is used. “JDRF gave $150 million last year toward research in partnership with National Institutes of Health. They are using money in smart ways. They are working to develop an artificial pancreas and different cell designs that help the body produce its own insulin, instead of relying on injections.”
Dan also worked on this year’s Gala and Walk to Cure Diabetes, of which there are six in the region. The gala at The Hershey Lodge raised $400,000. The donations from all of these events fund the Central Pennsylvania chapter, which is on track to raise $1.25 million this year, he said.
“We are one of the top dollar-for-dollar organizations in the country. What we raise and what goes to research is among the best. We run a tight ship at our office and it’s powerful to see how passionate the folks are who are part of it,” Dan said. “We want to end this disease.”
Although it may seem that Dan pours enough energy into JDRF for it to be a fulltime position, his real job is as a partner at Novak Strategic Advisors in Harrisburg. He’s been a senior associate there since 2005. Prior to that, he was executive director of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania.
Dan graduated magna cum laude as a dual political science and history major from Shippensburg in 2000. It was during his time at Ship that he learned the value of volunteering.
“I volunteered for political campaigns while I was at Shippensburg. The volunteering wasn’t for nonprofit, but that’s where it all got started. As I got older and became more worldly, I realized how important it is to give back to a nonprofit. In this case, diabetes is among the most costly diseases to our health-care system, so ending this would be a great feat for our country.”
The causes of type 1 diabetes aren’t yet understood, but scientists believe both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. There is nothing a person can do to prevent it, and currently, nothing they can do to stop it.
The Central Pennsylvania JDRF hopes to change that, and Dan will be right there with them. This July, Dan will take his bicycle to Burlington, Vermont, for the Ride to Cure Diabetes. He’ll travel to Nashville, Tennessee, in September for another ride, adding to the hundreds of miles he’s already racked up in the fight against the disease. In 2011, Dan participated in the 111-mile JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Tucson, Arizona.
Dan also is involved in Hope on 2 Wheels, an organization of thirty cyclists who ride for awareness of the disease. “We went from New York City to National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, Maryland. We also visited a camp that helps kids dealing with type 1 diabetes in Massachusetts and biked to another camp in New Jersey,” he said. “To give hope to the kids that are there is amazing.
“I think giving back to the community any way you can is important. Everyone has limits with time and money, but giving back is very important. The time I’ve given to JDRF gives me a mission in life to help. Giving back and seeing the results—it feels good.”