Town Talk Features

Rx: A Cure – JDRF

When St. Louisan Jean Schneider’s young daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four decades ago, there wasn’t much of a support network. That, despite the disease’s seriousness and its complications: blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart disease and death. So Schneider, with the prompting of Washington University researchers, founded a local JDRF chapter. That was in 1976. “Since then, it’s grown far beyond what I imagined at the time, and treatment has improved tremendously,” says Schneider, who went on to serve as national and international JDRF president in the early ’80s.

OFC-JDRF-1.27Upon its founding, the local chapter board consisted of a small number of parents and children with T1D. Today’s board, which includes philanthropic-minded corporate leaders, steers a local chapter serving 3,000 families and raising $3 million each year for research and related education. The global nonprofit—the world’s largest supporting T1D research—currently sponsors $530 million in research in more than a dozen countries, says Marie Davis, executive director of the Greater Missouri and Southern Illinois Chapter. It also funds nearly 50 human clinical trials and is involved in 555 active research projects, she adds.

JDRF is responsible for many treatment advances, including the recent implantable insulinproducing cells that regulate blood sugar, freeing people with diabetes from daily injections. But the disease remains incurable. To help raise funds for costly research, and to celebrate its history and far-reaching impact, JDRF hosts its annual major fundraiser, the Dream Gala, May 7 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch. The event, themed Spirit of ’76, is sponsored by Jay Wolfe Toyota of West County.

For its nearly 20 years of support, KPMG, represented by St. Louis office managing partner Karen Vangyia and partner Jim Zeck, will receive the Philanthropic Leadership Award. “At KPMG, we are passionate about supporting our communities and the issues that affect them,” says Vangyia. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts and look forward to continuing our longstanding relationship with the organization.”

KPMG’s support, all employee-driven, has included providing volunteers and participants during the annual JDRF walk, attending the annual gala, and sponsoring major events. “Our employees look for ways to participate and encourage the firm to get involved in various ways,” Zeck says. “Our focus is always to support our professionals and what they want to do in the community.”

Although the event marks the local chapter’s 40th anniversary, it’s also a celebration of what’s ahead. To emphasize how vital the next generation of dedicated volunteers and philanthropists are to JDRF’s continued success, the gala recognizes Megan and Steve Fraley, who are, respectively, events chair and secretary of the young leadership committee. “Our Young Friends organization includes many philanthropic young people,” Davis says. “They don’t all have a personal connection to T1D, but they all believe in the mission of prevention, improving therapies and finding a cure.”

JDRF’s Dream Gala 2016, themed Spirit of ’76, takes place May 7 at Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch. Pictured on the cover, standing: chapter founder Jean Schneider; young leadership officers Steven and Megan Fraley; KPMG partner Jim Zeck. Seated: KPMG-St. Louis office managing partner Karen Vangyia. For more information, call 314.729.1846 or visit

Pictured: Karen Vangyia and Jim Zeck of KPMG
Cover design by Jon Fogel | Cover photo by Tim Parker of Tim Parker Photography