Volunteers of the Year

Gary Baker


Although many acts of kindness, generosity and selflessness go unsung, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Southwest Ohio wants to be sure everyone knows about two of their most hard-working volunteers, Dan Feldkamp and Petra Vester. Together with JDRF, they help raise funding for Type 1 diabetes research.

“On January 22, 2011, my daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” remembers Vester.

Like any parent, Vester’s instinct to get out and find a way to help her child kicked in.

“Later that year I attended the JDRF Cincinnatian of the Year Gala and knew that very evening that JDRF was the type of organization that I could get behind and support.”

Although Feldkamp didn’t have anyone in his immediate family that was living with Type 1 diabetes, he joined JDRF to support friends who had lost a child to the disease.

“I was inspired by two amazing people, Bob and Karen Myers, who have dedicated their lives to finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes,” says Feldkamp. “That was 14 years ago and we’re still all in it today to help others and to honor the memory of their son, Kevin Myers.”

Both Feldkamp and Vester are heavily involved in JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes, a fundraiser that organizes bicyclists to be sponsored by friends and family for every mile they ride in courses that range from 25 to 100 miles.

“When I started this journey, I didn’t have a direct connection to the disease,” says Feldkamp, “But today my Ride family in Southwest Ohio is 140-people strong and now I ride and fight for them. Our team is one of the most supportive teams I’ve ever been part of. It’s an amazing community.”

The volunteers’ enduring passions to find a cure haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Each year the chapter selects just two volunteers from the northern and southern part of our chapter’s territory,” explains Melissa Newman, JDRF’s executive director. “Dan will receive the Dayton Volunteer of the Year and Petra will receive the Cynthia Maryer Marmer Volunteer of the Year award.

“Petra Vester gives her all to JDRF and that means participating in almost every event and program we offer. She has chaired our annual gala, served as a committee member, coach and national emcee for Ride and has worked on so many other outreach and walk events. I’m excited that she’ll be expanding her involvement even further next year as she joins our board of directors.”

In her many experiences with JDRF, there’s one event that will always have a special place with Vester, which occurred one year after her daughter’s diagnosis.

“It was the 100-mile bike ride in La Crosse, Wisconsin,” smiles Vester. “Hannah and I trained together with the rest of the Ride team and it took us almost nine hours to complete the ride. But we finished together with smiles on both of our faces. The two of us raised close to $20,000.”

This year, Hannah will be participating in her 10th ride and Petra will be entering her 16th. And, each Ride, Vester has been able to see the benefit of the research that JDRF funds.

“Right after the diagnosis, Hannah started using an insulin pen, then moved to an insulin pump,” says Vester. “In December of ’15, she started using a groundbreaking continuous glucose monitoring system which was a major improvement to help manage a disease that never rests. Type 1 diabetes is 24/7 and so is the CGM, which gives readings throughout the day and night.

“While I understand that a true biological cure is still ways away, the improvements in Hannah’s ability to manage this disease are incredible.”

Feldkamp is also impressed with the technological advances he has seen over the years.

“From compact insulin pumps to exploring the biology of beta cells that create insulin in the body, JDRF has changed the way people live with Type 1 diabetes,” says Feldkamp. “JDRF is funding innovative research, advocating government action for affordable insulin and providing a much-needed support structure for our community. When I think about how JDRF has helped the community, it’s just like on our Ride team – no one rides alone!

“When I started this journey, I didn’t have a direct connection to the disease, but today I ride for my cousin, Lexi Klepek, and soon-to-be son-in-law, Nathan Denton.”

“Through his role as ride coach, Dan has earned the nickname ‘Lieutenant Dan’ and is known for his infectious energy and positive attitude,” says Newman. “Regardless of the circumstances, you can always count on Dan to be a positive role model, an incredible ambassador for JDRF and to do whatever it takes to make our ride program the best it can be.”

Like all modest award-winners, both Vester and Feldkamp note that they are only as strong as the other volunteers they work with.

“I volunteer so much because I know that there is a team of incredible people out there working just as hard toward finding a cure and preventing and treating this disease,” says Vester.

“The dedication and work ethic of the JDRF team have really spilled over into the other parts of my life,” says Feldkamp. “Being a part of something that helps others is an example we should all try to follow. Real fulfillment comes only from helping others. All the rest is just temporary.”

Cynthia Maryer Marmer Volunteer of the Year Recipients

2012 Carla Palmore

2013 Burke Neville

2014 Anne Zaring

2015 Mara Wolf

2016 Jamie Gindele

2017 Laura Cramer

2018 Mark Kacher

2019 Petra Vester

Dayton Volunteer of the Year Recipients

2013 Walt Hibner

2014 Paul Labbe

2015 Hallie Addington

2016 Jon Faulkner

2017 Diane Schoeffler-Warren

2018 Amy Maggard

2019 Daniel Feldkamp