2013 Ride: La Crosse, WI
Sometimes, we have to take a close look to see our own organization’s heroes—those who are part of our JDRF “DNA.” National Manager Jessica Bearak, now based in the Chicago area, has worked for JDRF since her graduate-school internship in the Capitol Chapter more than 15 years ago. Her JDRF tenure dates back to the time when we were only three letters—JDF. This summer, however, she will be a first-time participant in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in La Crosse, WI. That’s right—rider Jessica will mount her bike on August 17. After manning registration tables and feeding and attending to cyclists at rest stops, Jessica finds the Ride irresistible. She wants to feel the experience for herself. “I want to eat those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I’ve made for the riders,” Jessica declares. “I want to enjoy someone else putting a cool wet towel on my neck instead of being the one to do it!”
Why ride for JDRF? “There’s a special Ride experience that’s packed with the emotions that people feel for what they’ve accomplished,” Jessica says. “It includes exceptional commitment, pride, and inspiration—I’ve seen just a snippet of this as a staffer from the outside and I now want to be inside.” To Jessica, the Ride, whether it is two miles or 20, is a celebration of our organization’s accomplishments. She is personally committing to ride 40 miles at the La Crosse event, and she has nearly 40 people who are supporting her. “I may never be the fastest, or complete the entire 100 miles, but I don’t care,” Jessica states. “I am doing something special for me and in support of JDRF and the research that we fund.” Having already met her minimum goal of $3,000, she’s now aiming for $4,000. And she’s not stopping.
Determination drives Jessica—and it doesn’t go unnoticed. “I believe that after every bike ride, the mileage that Jessica plans on completing for the Ride increases,” observes her husband, Justin. “At first it was 30 miles, now it’s up to 40, and I wouldn’t be surprised on the day of the Ride if it’s up to 50.” For Jessica, the loss of Allen Schaeffer, who had T1D and was the father of her friend Alexis Jarrett, increased her motivation to do the Ride. She had planned to participate in the event a couple of years ago, but Mother Nature intervened, and she gave birth to her son Noah in 2012.
Prior to getting pregnant with Noah, Jessica had purchased a hybrid bicycle. (It was a bold move for someone who hadn’t been on a bike since she was a preteen!) And, by her own admission, she’s not a natural-born athlete. Jessica maintains that the assistance from her two Ride coaches and Ride buddy is invaluable. Coaches Paul Brinkworth and Matt Schmitz provide encouraging technical support. And Buddy Mary Gollings motivated Jessica to get going early with her training program. Jessica also receives a steady stream of inspiration from Allen Schaeffer’s wife, Barbara, and Alexis. Jessica’s husband, Justin, pitches in, taking care of Noah while she goes out on training rides. And his family pitches in, too, taking care of Noah at times, so Justin can ride along with Jessica. He will certainly be at the finish line in La Crosse, with cheers and a cool towel or two.
Yet, before her marriage and motherhood, before knowing a friend whose life was taken by T1D, Jessica’s commitment to JDRF and our mission marked her as an exceptional person. Kristin Judd, director for Team JDRF and the mother of a son with T1D, has known Jessica for more than 10 years. Kristin and Jessica have worked on numerous JDRF events together, including the Walk. “I always felt like Jessica was walking for my son,” Kristin remarks. “It says so much about her that she is now participating in a Ride—she couldn’t not do it, no matter how far it is outside of her comfort zone—that’s just who she is.”
We are all cheering for you, Jessica. Good luck at your first JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes!
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July 24 — 27, 2014
La Crosse, WI:
August 14 — 17, 2014
Lake Tahoe, CA:
September 5 — 8, 2014
October 30 — November 2, 2014
Death Valley, CA:
October 16 — 19, 2014
November 20 — 23, 2014
November 21 - 24, 2013
Join JDRF's team of riders and be part of the University Medical Center (UMC) 29th El Tour de Tucson, presented by Diamond Ventures, one of America's largest bicycling event producers. JDRF riders will be sharing the course with over 9,000 cyclists, 2,000 volunteers, and 27,000 spectators.