Dede Ferrara – Cause: Children’s health issues, type 1 diabetes

Dede Ferrara feels called to work for the physical and emotional well-being of children with diabetes and other chronic illnesses.

Dede Ferrara believes volunteering should be a family affair. It has always been that way for her, beginning with a childhood spent giving back to those in need under the encouragement of her mother. Now with four children of her own, Ferrara is passing down that passion for service to a new generation.

Ferrara’s area of philanthropic interest involves a topic dear to her own heart as a mother: children’s health. A former president of the Junior League of Baton Rouge, she helped bring to life a program promoting good nutrition for kids. As board chair for Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana, she worked to bring down the rates of neglect and abuse and to educate parents.

But the children’s health issue hit closest to home when Ferrara’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Ferrara wanted to help her own child as well as those suffering from the disease, so she got involved with JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and served on its board for several years.

“Type 1 diabetes strikes suddenly, and it is not known why some will get it and others don’t,” Ferrara says.

She has poured much of her energy into helping with the organization’s annual spring fundraiser, all in the hopes of one day finding a cure for a condition that “not only physically but emotionally affects so many.” While engaged in this work, Ferrara learned that her second daughter also has type 1 diabetes.

“It is rare, but sometimes siblings will also be diagnosed with type 1,” she says. “My children inspire me each and every day, and they are my heroes.”

Drawing on that inspiration, Ferrara now encourages all of her children to volunteer alongside her and her husband. As the kids get older, she hopes to work with them at the local children’s hospital and to help improve education for other families regarding day-to-day life with chronic illnesses.

“Our entire family has been involved with helping to fund the research needed to find a cure for type 1 diabetes so that it doesn’t have to be a lifetime of insulin injections and potentially life-threatening complications,” she says. “Volunteering is great to do as a family and helps our children understand the importance of giving back, helping others, being a servant leader and working to improve our community. It teaches them to focus more on others and less on self.”

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What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
I love knowing that I have helped to make someone’s life better or easier, and I thank all the volunteers who have worked with JDRF (previously known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to help fund a cure for type 1 diabetes.

How is your cause making a difference?
I think JDRF is helping not only to fund the research to find a cure but also to educate and raise awareness of the disease and provide support.

How would you like to inspire others?
I hope to inspire others to get more involved with something they are passionate about. All of us have something that can help better an organization, whether with our time, talent or treasure.

What is something we may not know about your cause?
Type 1 (also known as juvenile) diabetes is not something that someone “grows out of.”