Our 2023 Volunteer of the Year winners

May 17, 2023

It’s National Volunteer Week and this year’s theme is ‘change makers’. At JDRF, we know that no change for type 1 diabetes (T1D) has happened without the dedication of volunteers across the community.

We are an organisation who was founded by volunteers and is still powered by them, including (but not limited to!) our amazing peer support mentors, advocates across the country, countless fundraisers, research/trial participants, JDRF ambassadors and our office volunteers.

To commemorate this important week, we are super excited to announce the national winners for JDRF’s 2023 Volunteer of the Year Awards – Margaret Sheridan and Emily Klimek, the adult and youth winners respectively.  

We caught up with Margaret and Emily to hear about their experience with volunteering to make a difference for T1D and what this award means to them.

Margaret Sheridan 

“I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in late 1997, with my 4th child. After the birth, my glucose tolerance test also indicated that I had diabetes and because of my age, even though my diet, lifestyle, and other factors did not indicate type 2 diabetes, I was misdiagnosed.  

I was confused, I lived a healthy lifestyle and regularly exercised. However, the medication I was on was not helping at all.  

My GP sent me to an endocrinologist who ordered further blood tests, and those results showed that I had type 1½, otherwise known as LADA. I then took part in a research study and had further blood work done, which showed that I did not produce any insulin at all – and I was then diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, at the age of 45.  

From this day forward, I often wondered why I was the one who got stuck with such a gruelling disease. I made the decision that I would do everything in my power to fund T1D research and advocate to support JDRF and access to T1D technology.  

I discovered JDRF Australia and held my first ‘Central Coast JDRF One Walk’ in 2012. I wanted to drive the Central Coast community to get involved with JDRF by raising funds for T1D research – to help find a cure, as well as bringing our community together to raise awareness. I am really passionate about supporting the younger generation who are diagnosed with T1D and will continue to support them here on the Central Coast.  

This year will also be my 9th year of hosting the JDRF One Walk! With bipartisan support from our local MPs and together with our wonderful community, we have already raised more than $250,000 through these celebrations and this year will add even more to that sum.  

Thank you to the Central Coast community for your tireless support, and to our local Members of Parliament I say ‘thank you’ for listening!  

I am honoured and thrilled to be JDRF’s 2023 National Volunteer of the Year.” 

Emily Klimek 

“I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June 2010, at the age of two. My whole life has been about insulin, pumps, finger pricks and needles. I can’t remember a day without T1D.  

Being a part of JDRF has been life-changing and gave me the ability to make life with T1D much easier, not only for me but for the whole T1D community.  

I chose to be a part of the JDRF advocacy program to make my voice heard. I wanted to raise awareness and show the world that T1D is not easy but with the help of our community, governments, and JDRF it can and will improve the lives of many.  

I have had the privilege of meeting with many people. One thing I have done my whole life is the JDRF One Walk. I’ve had family and friends come and support my team. We called ourselves Emily’s Ladybugs and the name has stuck with me forever. COVID may have changed the format of the Walk over the last few years, but I am super excited to continue this tradition and be a Walk Host in Penrith later this year.  

I was blessed with the opportunity to meet our Australian Governor-General his Excellency David Hurley to celebrate our great achievements in 2022 and to speak with my local MP Melissa McIntosh. I hope to continue my advocacy work with Melissa in the future to secure ongoing Government support for research to find a cure and improve the lives of the type 1 community.  

I was also able to meet with Senator Anne Ruston (Shadow Health Minister) last year to express how much the #AccessForAll campaign will change the lives of all those living with T1D and will continue to advocate with future governments to fund the Clinical Research Network. 

I am fortunate to be part of a supportive school community and through this have been able to raise awareness & organised a school fundraiser to raise funds to support more JDRF research. I want to make a change in our world.  

I am honoured and thrilled to have been nominated and selected as the Youth 2023 Volunteer of the Year for JDRF and look forward to continuing my journey with JDRF to help make type 1, type none!” 

Congratulations Margaret and Emily, who have dedicated so much of their time to JDRF and the T1D community.  

On behalf of JDRF, thank you to all the volunteers who help us make change possible!