Helping find a cure

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Lisa Goudy
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Moose Jaw native helps open doors of diabetes research center

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Pictured is the $25 million-cheque presentation by the Fraternal Order of Eagles that completes the F.O.E. Diabetes Research Center at the University of Iowa on July 13, 2014 at the Rosen Centre in Orlando, FL.

After years of fundraising and hard work, Kerr helped spearhead the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE)’s $25-million pledge to open the Diabetes Research Center (DRC) at the University of Iowa. On Saturday, it opened its doors for the first time.

“It is absolutely awesome. It’s a feeling beyond compare to have it finally completed,” said Kerr, who is the co-director of the DRC and past international auxiliary president.

She, along with many other representatives from Eagles clubs in the United States and Canada, were present for the ribbon cutting of the DRC. The $25 million supplied by the FOE will go towards researching a cure for diabetes.

“It means a lot. Both my parents were diabetic and I have a lot of friends that are diabetic today and I have a lot of friends that have passed away over the years that were diabetics,” said Kerr. “I worked at a hospital for 35 years and I’ve seen many diabetics and what can happen to them as their life progresses and as the disease progresses.

“So it meant an awful lot and there’s many young people out there today suffering from diabetes. Many newborn babies (are being born with) diabetes these days.”

The DRC features 20,000 square feet of research space with state-of-the-art medical equipment. The FOE DRC has a team of 100 researchers.

The opportunity to raise money for this particular project came up at a convention in July 2008. The promise was to commit $25-million over basically a five-year period. For the first three years, the cheque installments were $5 million per year, followed by a $4 million-cheque in 2013 and the final $6-million in July 2014.

“It was really quite a challenge. Men and women of the organization did many, many fundraisers,” said Kerr. “The auxiliary donated $10.5 million … from a fund that we had set up many, many years ago. It was called a funeral benefits fund.”

Clubs in the United States and Canada raised the remaining funds through bake sales, raffles or “anything they could think of,” she said.

Initially, one of the members from the men’s side, known as the aerie, wanted to raise money for something to make the Eagles stand out among other non-profit organizations.

Members from the group travelled across the United States and Canada looking for a place for the DRC.

“They came upon the University of Iowa that was going to build a new building. So we joined forces with them,” said Kerr. “They built a new building, supplied everything for the building and all we had to do was raise the $25 million for researchers.”

As co-director of the DRC, she completed conference calls regularly with a team from the University of Iowa to report on the progress and to brainstorm ideas to encourage members to raise more money.

“It was very knowledgeable to me to learn some of those things and especially to talk to some of the doctors from the University of Iowa that were working in this field,” said Kerr.

The Moose Jaw aerie and auxiliary clubs also worked hard to raise the funds, she added, and their names are recognized as such.

At the DRC there is a rolling scroll with the names of each person who donated money.

“No matter how much money they donated, their name is on that rolling scroll,” said Kerr. “So if anyone ever visits the university and the centre, they can see that.”

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

 

Organizations: Diabetes Research Center, University of Iowa, Fraternal Order of Eagles

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, United States, Canada

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