Tag Archives: President

Buy Omaha Profile

February 24, 2017 by

Our industry is too often focused on the completion of transactions as the measure of success.  At OMNE Partners, we build relationships by providing best-in-class real estate services and looking beyond a single transaction. We believe in treating our clients’ businesses as our own, with great care and end-to-end attention to detail, which only exists in a true partnership.

My career in commercial real estate began at the Omaha-based, family-owned real estate development firm the Slosburg Company. I was fortunate to work closely with the partners of the firm—their knowledge and advice was invaluable. From there, I moved to the Lund Co. Once again, I was fortunate to work with great people. John Lund and the other founders of the firm, Rich Secor and Jerry Kelley, were significant influences from day one. Working directly for Jason Fisher, Lund Co.’s president, I learned how leadership influences company culture and open communication fosters loyalty.

People who work at OMNE Partners can expect a culture that is committed to collaboration across departments. Everyone here is aware of how important they are to our success. We are very intentional about it. We recently implemented regularly scheduled, very brief (as quick as five minutes), company-wide update meetings. The purpose is to open the lines of communication and ensure everyone is working together outside of what is articulated in an organizational chart. We openly discuss company goals and the specific impact achievement will have on the firm.

One of the tasks we completed through our rebranding was the definition and expression of our principles.  What resulted was the beginning of what would become our manifesto. There is one line that sums it up well: “At our core, we care deeply about each other and the community we live and work within.”

TJ and his wife, Kate, have been married for 13 years and have three boys: Max, Ted, and Gus.

B2B

OMNE Partners
13340 California St., No. 100
Omaha, NE 68154
402-697-8899
omnepartners.com

 

Ten Outstanding Young Omahans

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

On Feb. 8, the Omaha Jaycees honored the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans of 2017 during a banquet at The Paxton Ballroom. This award recognized individuals for their commitment to the community and their extraordinary leadership qualities.

“It’s pretty amazing that this award started right here in Omaha, and it truly is an award and recognition of the highest honor,” says Jennifer Anderson, president of the Omaha Jaycees. “The Omaha Jaycees continue to be impressed with the caliber of applicants we see each year, and we are happy that we can continue the tradition of honoring Omaha’s best and brightest.”

The judges for this year’s event were:

Mikaela Borecky
United Way of the Midlands

Jessica Feilmeier
Truhlsen Eye Institute, UNMC

Nicole Jilek
Abrahams, Kaslow, & Cassman LLP

Nick Langel
Union Pacific Railroad

Marjorie Maas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska

Maggie McGlade
CQuence Health Group

P.J. Morgan
P.J. Morgan Real Estate

Katie Triplett
Nebraska Methodist Health System

Michael Young
RSM US LLP

This year’s TOYO! recipients are…

Chinh Doan

KETV Newswatch 7
Doan studied journalism, Spanish, and international studies at the University of Oklahoma and graduated as the “Outstanding Senior.” She is Omaha Tri Delta alumnae president, Young Catholic Professionals’ Parish Ambassadors coordinator, and is the inventory manager for the Junior League of Omaha’s “Project Hope Pack” Committee. She is also a member of Vietnamese Friendship Association of Omaha, and Asian American Journalists Association. She participates in the Omaha Press Club Show and Omaha Fashion Week.

Megan Hunt

Hello Holiday
Hunt began her career as a bridal designer.
She is the co-founder of Hello Holiday and is also the founder of Safe Space Nebraska. In 2010 Hunt received Shout Magazine’s 30 Under 30 honor, and in 2011 she was recognized as one of Midlands Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Her 2014 book, Fabric Blooms, sold out of its first printing in under 24 hours. Hunt has served on the boards of Omaha Area Youth Orchestras, Friends of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, CHEER Nebraska, and Friends of the Nebraska AIDS Project.

Ryan Ellis 

P.J. Morgan Real Estate
Ellis began his career at P.J. Morgan Real Estate as an intern while attending Creighton University. He graduated from Creighton with a bachelor’s degree in finance. In 2007, Ellis was promoted to vice president and chief operating officer, and in 2009, Ellis was named
company president.

Ellis serves on the boards of Family Housing Advisory Services, Omaha Conservatory of Music, and Fashion Institute Guild. He is a 2014 Leadership Omaha graduate and was awarded the Midland’s Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 award in the same year.

Emiliano Lerda, J.D., LL.M.

Justice For Our Neighbors of Omaha
Lerda earned a B.A. in communication studies from the University of Northern Iowa and a J.D. from Drake University Law School. He holds certificates in Public Service Law, Food & Agriculture Law, and International Comparative and Human Rights Law from Drake. He is the executive director at Justice for Our Neighbors of Omaha and has taught “Immigration, Law & Latinos” as an adjunct professor at UNO. He participated in the Nonprofit Executive Institute and Leadership Omaha Class 36 and is currently enrolled in the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program.

Leslie Fischer

Together A Greater Good
Fischer graduated from Millard North High School in 1995, and with a degree in business administration, minor in marketing, from UNO in 1999.

She is the co-founder of TAGG, a social good app that received the “Excellence in Business Award—Community” from the Greater Omaha Chamber in 2016. Fischer also received UNO’s Young Achievement Award in 2015.
She co-founded Ladies Who Launch Omaha and serves on the board of Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue and B4B Society.

Cliff McEvoy, MPA, MSL

Buford Foundation
McEvoy graduated from Saint Louis University and served as an Air Force officer for 6 1/2 years. He left with the rank of Captain and was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.

McEvoy also earned an MPA from the University of Akron and an M.S. from Creighton University. McEvoy serves on Nebraskans for Civic Reform, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Young Professionals Council, the Greater Omaha Chamber Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and is president of Omaha Professionals United in Service. He is the executive director of the Buford Foundation.

Sheena Kennedy Helgenberger

Live Well Omaha Kids
Helgenberger earned a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2010. She wrote a thesis under the direction of Dr. Rachelle Winkle-Wagner about African American women’s experiences transitioning to college. The research resulted in an article in the NASPA Journal.

She is the coalition director for Live Well Omaha Kids, and she is particularly passionate about empowering and protecting youth. The greatest reward of Sheena’s volunteer experiences has been her relationship with her Little Sister, Allanah.

Emily Poeschl

University of Nebraska at Omaha
Poeschl is also a 2016 TOYO! recipient. She has a BSBA from UNL and an MBA from UNO, where she is the director of marketing. Poeschl is a member of the Susan G Komen Nebraska Board of Directors, and serves in two national volunteer roles: the Komen Advocacy Advisory Taskforce and Komen Advocates in Science. She is a member of Women’s Fund of Omaha Circles Group, and United Way Community Investment Review Team. She is also a Girls Inc. Pathfinders mentor, a Delta Gamma Omaha Alumnae Chapter past president, and an SID 502 past trustee.

Kasey Hesse

Gallup
Hesse leads Gallup’s dot-com team as a technology manager at Gallup. She majored in international studies and Portuguese at UNL, and earned an M.A. in mental health counseling from UNO. Hesse is a board member at Bluebarn Theatre, Omaha Friends of Planned Parenthood, and is on the Kent Bellows Mentoring Program’s education committee. She is a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow and a member of Leadership Omaha class 34.

Tony Vargas 

Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance and Omaha Public Schools Board
Vargas is a State Senator for District 7 in the Nebraska Legislature, representing the communities of Downtown and South Omaha. He previously served on the Omaha Public Schools Board of Education. Vargas earned a B.A. from the University of Rochester and an M.Ed. from Pace University and is currently the director of marketing and communications for Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance. He is also serves on the advisory board for New Leaders Council-Omaha.

Roger Holthaus

January 13, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Roger Holthaus was offered a summer job in 1960 as a park ranger in Wyoming. Several days later, a second letter arrived offering him a job in the Eisenhower White House.

 

The White House job was a perfect fit. He was one year away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Looking back on his time in America‘s most famous house, Holthaus says, “Security was different then. When Vice President Nixon was not there, anyone could do what I did. I would go to his office to chat and have coffee with his secretary, Rose Mary Woods.”

Washington, D.C., was filled with Nebraska natives that year. Former Nebraska Gov. Val Peterson was Federal Civil Defense Administrator. Fred Seton was Secretary of the Interior. Seton’s newspaper, the Hastings Tribune, sat down the street from the drugstore owned by Holthaus’ father.

Holthaus’ boss in the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization was Bob Gray, special assistant to President Eisenhower and a fellow Hastings High School alum.  Gray would call Holthaus and say, “Ike’s out of town. Want  to join me in the swimming pool?”

“I was the state champion swimmer in high school,” Holthaus says. The retired attorney is still a champion swimmer, traveling the country to compete  in National Senior Olympics.

Holthaus returned to the State Department in 1961 after college graduation. “That was going to be my career,” he says.

But his path took a twist when he was called up by the Selective Service.  He applied for a direct commission. Within a week, Lieutenant Holthaus was on his way to Fort Sam Houston and then to a front-line aid station in the DMZ in Korea as part of the Army Medical Service Corps.

Holthaus left the Army and earned a master’s degree in political science and government in 1966 from the University of Nebraska. He then taught political science classes at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City for three years.

After graduating with a law degree from Creighton University in 1972, he became Deputy Douglas County Attorney and later established his own law firm.

Historical buildings have been a big part of his life.  His law offices were once in the 1600 Farnam Building, built in 1916 for First National Bank. He also had a condominium there. Today his home is in the St. Joseph Tower on 10th Street, built in the 19th century as a hospital.

Although he retired in 2012, Holthaus still maintains an office in the more-than century-old Keeline building near the courthouse.  He works there representing District 2 in the Learning Community of Douglas-Sarpy Counties.  He once lived in the nearby Orpheum Towers, which is listed on the National Historic Registry.

His Carleton College roommate was Garrick Utley, who became a well-known NBC newsman. Holthaus once jokingly told his friend that he thought Maria Shriver, Utley’s co-anchor on NBC News Sunday Today, was cute and would he introduce them? Utley called back in a few days and said,  “She says if I do, I will be terminated.”

At the time, Shriver was married to Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger.

David Brown’s Omaha

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

David Brown did his fair share of moving around before settling in Omaha in 2003 to become president of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Before assuming that post, the Detroit native worked in his home state of Michigan, then in Indiana, before spending a solid decade in South Carolina.

Brown has always stayed longer than the norm for chamber professionals because he also does economic development work and that field requires long-term commitment.

“Economic development is really my first love. The part I’ve grown to love the most is [determining] what to do to improve the community so that it’s more attractive to companies and individuals to stay here or to come here,” he says. “When you do chamber work, which traditionally does not include economic development, you don’t put down as many roots as you do if you’re doing economic development, where you’re selling dirt and really learning about the community. Clients have to see you’re knowledgeable and committed.”

After 10 years down south, he and wife Maggie looked to get the youngest of their two sons settled in school. Moving to the middle of the country held great appeal.

“We wanted to get into a more positive public-education environment for Elijah, who was getting ready to go into middle school. We wanted to get back to the Midwest where our roots were,” says Brown. “Fortunately, the Omaha position was open, and I threw my hat in the ring and got the job.

“I guess what really trips my trigger is that I can point to things I’ve been involved in that have made [Omaha] a better place and given people jobs. I like making a difference, that’s really what it comes down to.”

“This is my 10th year. We’ve been here about as long as we’ve been anywhere. This is home.”

His devotion to Omaha is such that he’s influenced extended family members to make this their home as well. He enjoys working with people who share his passion for enhancing Omaha.

“There has been a collection of leadership here that seems to have in the back of their mind, ‘How do we improve this place?’ You’ve got this intentional effort to try and improve the place, married with the unbelievable generosity of the philanthropists here and the corporate support for making this a better place. You see remarkable amenities created, not to bring tourists to Omaha but to enhance the quality of life for the people who already live here. The fact that they’ve had a tourist appeal as well is just chocolate on the sundae.”

Add it all up, he says, “and that gives us a competitive advantage over other places where that kind of development and quality discussion doesn’t happen as consistently. We’ve got people who have been able to sit down and say, ‘What is it we need to be a better place?’ and then they’ve gone about the process of getting it done. It’s fascinating to see how quickly some of this stuff has occurred, like the riverfront redevelopment. There was a frenetic pace almost that took place in the ’90s that continued into the 2000s.”

For Brown, there’s nothing better than seeing projects like the CenturyLink Center Omaha or Midtown Crossing take shape.

“I guess what really trips my trigger is that I can point to things I’ve been involved in that have made [Omaha] a better place and given people jobs. I like making a difference, that’s really what it comes down to. It’s very rewarding at the end of the year to sit back and say, ‘What did we do this year?’ and know we made a measurable, demonstrable difference in the community we live in…Not just me, but the team we function with, from our volunteers to our members to our staff.”20130228_bs_7662-2_Web

Brown will be guiding the new Prosper Omaha campaign that seeks to brand the city as never before. Omaha’s aspirational spirit resonates with him and the work of the chamber.

“Omaha’s always been a business town, and the business community here plays a big role in making things happen. We’ve been fortunate as an organization that the business community has looked to the chamber to accomplish some pretty significant things, so over time, we’ve picked up some additional responsibilities. We find ourselves in things a lot of chambers don’t find themselves involved in.”

The Young Professionals Association is an example.

“We have this dynamic young professionals organization that’s involved in virtually every major community activity you can think of,” Brown says. “The management and leadership of that process has been a whole new learning experience for us. There are 5,000 young professionals who, at some point or another, have plugged into this process of making Omaha a better place. We’re mentoring and engaging [them] so they can be leaders in the future. It’s become part of our leadership agenda.”

In terms of projects, he says, the chamber is “getting deeper and deeper into things the community needs. When [then-Omaha Chamber board chair] Dick Bell said in 2004 that the chamber is going to be involved in making sure every Omahan has an opportunity to succeed and every area in Omaha has an opportunity to grow, that [declaration] got us in the community development business. We’re going to help Midtown grow, were going to help NoDo grow, we’re going to help North Omaha grow, we’re going to help South Omaha grow. That changed the way we think about economic development and the activities we’re engaged in doing community development.”

“I like change…It’s something I really embrace. If I don’t see change happening, I’m wondering if I’m doing my job.”

Brown says he likes that the Omaha Chamber not only “provides services to our members to grow their businesses, but we’re also a catalytic organization.” He adds, “That means we’re sometimes change agents. Sometimes we lead. Virtually always we’re conveners. We convene a wide diversity of people that can help solve problems. Advocacy is always a part of the agenda.”

A graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played football and baseball, Brown is a natural people person and team player. “I really like people,” he says.

He says lessons he learned playing team sports “are all things I use every day with our team here at the chamber and with the teams we build within the community,” adding, “The chamber rarely does things ourselves. We always partner with people and collaborate with others to get things accomplished, and that’s a different kind of team but a team nonetheless.”

He also likes getting things done. “I like change…It’s something I really embrace. If I don’t see change happening, I’m wondering if I’m doing my job. I like to come up with new ideas and trust my team to tell me which ones are good and which ones are bad and then see ideas come to fruition. In the end, it doesn’t matter to me who gets the credit, as long as we get stuff done. That’s the way the chamber operates and, in large measure, it’s the way Omaha operates. I think that’s one of the things that makes us unique.”

Away from the office, Brown says he enjoys golf, hunting, landscaping, and reading. Maggie is often by his side. “She’s my best friend, and we do everything together,” Brown says. “She’s been my partner in this whole career process. She’s a great saleswoman. She’s done the trade show and conference thing with me. She knows the spiel. She can pitch just like I can. She’s great with volunteers and board members.”

Keep up-to-date with Brown and the Greater Omaha Chamber at omahachamber.org.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Joan Squires

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Joan Squires was living a cozy life in Arizona where she was president and CEO of the Phoenix Symphony. But when Omaha Performing Arts leaders called 10 years ago, she couldn‘t resist the challenge.

OPA wanted her help in operating two theaters in Omaha—the venerable Orpheum and the yet-to-be-built Holland Performing Arts Center. Who could pass up the chance to operate a theater built in 1927 that was undergoing a $10 million renovation? And who wouldn’t want to participate in the building of a $102 million performing arts center in Downtown Omaha?

Squires saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “There was a committed board and key leadership. Also at that time, no one in Omaha was bringing in shows.”

OPA’s new president arrived in 2002 to find a staff of one and a lone computer housed in the offices of Heritage Services; the philanthropic foundation was OPA’s fundraiser. The Holland Performing Arts Center was only a sketch on an architect‘s drawing board. The Orpheum Theater was still owned by the City of Omaha. And few people knew much about OPA. “One of our greatest challenges was branding the institution,” Squires says. “We had to go from not in existence to fully operational in three years.”

Her first action was to help set goals: 1) Assume management of the Orpheum from the city, 2) Prepare a strategic plan for the development of the organizational and administrative structure for OPA, and 3) Participate in construction of the Holland.

“In 2004, we opened Ticket Omaha [a local ticketing service for the arts]. Tickets were on sale six months before the Holland’s first performance in 2005,” Squires says.20130102_bs_8722 copy

A Decade Later

Today, the OPA president has a staff of 90 full- and part-time employees and 500 volunteers. She oversees the 175,000-square-foot Holland Performing Arts Center and the renovated 2,600-seat Orpheum Theater that reopened in 2002. And Omaha Performing Arts now is the largest nonprofit arts organization in Nebraska.

Seventy-five percent of funding is now from earned revenue and 25 percent is from contributions.

Rankings in two industry publications in 2011 gave Omaha bragging rights. The Orpheum was ranked No.1 in Midwest ticket sales by Venues Today and No. 16 worldwide by Pollstar. The Holland was ranked in the top 10 nationally by Venues Today, an impressive ranking for a performing arts center that didn’t exist six years earlier.

“There were those that said Omaha could not support the facility,” remembers John Gottschalk, OPA chairman since its formation in 2000. Squires has oversight of a $18 million operation. “And in six years she has never missed her budget. Never.”

Squires’ success in luring top talent has brought a financial benefit to the area, attracting visitors, creating jobs, and increasing tax revenue. A 2011 survey by University of Nebraska economists concluded that the two theaters had a cumulative economic impact on Douglas County of $128.49 million over five years and a $98.31 million impact on Nebraska.

The widely praised acoustics of the Holland bring out the best of the Omaha Symphony. Broadway shows now seek out the Orpheum. Performances have included Wicked, Jersey Boys and Disney’s® Lion King, which returns in March.

Check Squires’ iPhone and you’ll find an eclectic collection of music. But Broadway tunes rule. “From childhood on, I’ve loved Broadway musicals,” she says.

OPA’s mission includes presenting educational programs for all ages, from student matinees to master classes to workshops taught by professionals.

“An addition at the Holland designed for teaching dance classes was added about three years ago,” says OPA Vice Chairman Richard Holland. The performing arts center was named for him and his late wife, Mary.

10 January 2013- Joan Squires office is photographed for B2B Magazine.

Photo in Squires’ office of her with Debbie Reynolds (left) and Warren Buffett.

Squires has her finger on the pulse on Broadway theatre life and currently serves as a voting member for Broadway’s Tony Awards®. Active in Broadway League committees, she is a member of the Performing Arts Center Consortium and of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. She is an advisor for the Broadway Dreams Foundation.

The Life of Joan Squires

Joan was born and raised in Shippensburg, Pa., where her father ran a family business. Her twin brother, John, is the fourth generation in the business. Joan received her undergraduate degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pa., and became a music teacher for three years. She loved her students, but teaching wasn’t her life’s mission.

She moved into arts management, earning a master’s degree in both business and music arts administration from the University of Michigan. She served as an intern for the National Endowment for the Arts and participated in a yearlong fellowship under the sponsorship of the League of American Orchestras.

Squires has worked in arts management for more than 25 years. Previous positions were with the Milwaukee, Utah, and Houston symphonies. She has received many honors including the Ak-Sar-Ben Court of Honor and the YWCA’s Woman of Vision. In 2012, she received a Governor’s Arts Award from the Nebraska Arts Council.

Squires has a short commute to work. She lives in a downtown condo about halfway between the two theaters that she oversees. Her husband, Tom Fay, was a vice president of the Arizona State University Foundation before they moved to Omaha. A native New Yorker, he played the oboe for 17 years with the Pittsburgh Symphony and held a second career in arts management and academic fundraising.

Fay and Squires have been married 22 years. She has three stepchildren and three grandchildren. Her husband has been supportive of her demanding career, says Squires. “He said he had his career, and it was now my turn.”

Squires said despite all the long hours she logs at work, it’s all worth it. “At the end of the day, standing in the back of the theater and watching the audience react, I think I have the best job in town.”

JDRF

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Diabetes has long been thought of as a single disease only suffered by the overweight, the unhealthy, the elderly, or those with family members who have had diabetes. And while that might be true of some people with the more common type 2 diabetes, it’s not the case with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

“Type 2 diabetes is very different from T1D, as it is considered preventable and treatable,” says Brevard Fraser, Executive Director of the JDRF Heartland Chapter, which includes both the Omaha and Council Bluffs areas. As it stands today, there are no biological cures for T1D, which is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It can occur at any age, and the exact cause is unknown.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF has been behind T1D research funding, working to improve the lives of all people affected by accelerating progress on the search for a cure, better treatments, and ways to prevent T1D. Today, JDRF is the leading global organization focused on T1D research and has contributed more than $1.6 billion to finding a cure.

“Incidences of T1D are on the rise, and JDRF is the first stop of support for those just diagnosed,” Fraser explains. “We can provide education, mentors, outreach, and the opportunity to be a part of finding a cure, and so much more for those affected by T1D.”

Despite what many people think, Fraser and those affiliated with JDRF know that T1D is a very complicated disease. “From those who are diagnosed at 9 months to those living with T1D for over 40 years…The daily regimen [they] have to live with every day of their lives—it blew my mind away!”

One person who would agree with Fraser is Omahan Daron Smith, who was diagnosed with T1D in 1970—coincidentally, the same year JDRF was founded.

According to Smith, T1D is best understood by the illustration of an old teeter-totter. But instead of being a regular teeter-totter, this teeter-totter is held up by a pencil and has three wooden planks joining in the center. One of the planks represents food intake. Another represents insulin intake. The last represents the exercise, emotions, and stress in life. “I am attempting to keep a perfect balance of my blood sugar levels with all three of these [planks] hitting me at once, all day every day,” says Smith

Smith grew up in the Omaha area. After spending some time at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he began his career at a young age, working for Better Business Equipment, a company started by his father, Coyner Smith, in 1968. When his father retired from the company in 2000, Smith took over as President.

“The funding raised by JDRF is making huge strides for the individuals who deal with this disease…There is significant progress toward a cure and much better treatment.” – Daron Smith

Despite his demanding career and raising 11-year-old son Joshua, Smith has a more overwhelming issue that constantly needs his attention—the injection of insulin into his body on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. A healthy pancreas will keep the body’s blood sugar level at about 80-100 all day regardless of activity, food intake, or stress. But for a person with T1D, like Smith, the levels must be managed in order to live. “My goal is to keep my blood sugar levels between 80 and 160. When my blood sugar levels get below 60, it causes major problems; and when it gets above 150, it will cause long-term, significant health issues, many of which are life-threatening.

“I decided a long time ago that I have to look at life with diabetes with a glass-half-full attitude.” Fortunately, Smith hasn’t had to rely solely on positivity to get him through the struggle.

“With the funding that has been raised for diabetes research through JDRF, tools like the insulin pump and the Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) would not have happened…Before I switched my insulin delivery to an insulin pump, I would deliver the insulin through the use of syringes. I’ve estimated that, in my lifetime, I have taken over 25,000 insulin injections.” JDRF’s research is why Smith now uses some fairly sophisticated technology to stay on top of his diabetes. “I use an insulin pump to deliver my insulin, and I also use a CGM to monitor my blood sugar level, as well as a glucometer to verify my blood sugar levels.”

Smith is also blessed to be on the Heartland Chapter’s board of directors. Through that connection, he says that he has become aware of how close we are to finding more significant, life-altering technology for those with T1D. “The funding raised by JDRF is making huge strides for the individuals who deal with this disease…There is significant progress toward a cure and much better treatment.”

Although JDRF is growing nearer to a cure for T1D each year, Smith hopes it comes soon, as it saddens him to think about the parents who have to help their children take thousands of insulin shots and prick their fingers six to 10 times a day for their entire life.

Cindy Irvine, who has volunteered with the Heartland Chapter for the last 10 years and is a former president of the board, says she is fortunate to have not been one of those parents. Her younger son, Tyler, was diagnosed with T1D at 14, which initially gave her the desire to work with the organization.

Cindy Irvine's son Tyler has T1D. She also volunteers with and is a former board president of JDRF Heartland Chapter.

Cindy Irvine.

“We were actually very blessed because he was older when he was diagnosed,” she says. “We had a lot of support in the medical community, as well as in our social community. He was pretty much able to give himself his own shots, and he knew he had to test his blood sugar.” Although her son was well adjusted to the management of his T1D, it doesn’t mean Irvine wasn’t occasionally at his school reminding teachers or coaches of his diabetic needs.

“JDRF, especially the Heartland Chapter, is doing such a great job educating people about what T1D is through their outreach programs and events.” – Cindy Irvine

Today, her son is 24 and has kept himself quite busy. “He just spent a year in Thailand, he spent a semester abroad in Mexico, he went to the Dominican Republic through a Creighton University program, and he’s now studying to get his master’s degree in public health.” While her son has traveled, Irvine has been constantly working with him to make sure he is managing his diabetes properly. “I don’t think people understand. When you go abroad, the supplies you have to take are massive. We sent six months of insulin with him when he went to Thailand, and then my husband and I flew over for the next six months. [Tyler] carries around a lot of stuff. He started carrying a ‘murse,’ which he said stands for ‘man purse,’” she adds with a laugh.

Irvine believes that the Heartland Chapter has done so much to provide help for children with diabetes and their parents. “There are so many resources that you really can’t get anywhere else—information on how to fill out the forms for school to make sure they’re getting the right care or how to prepare a child to go to college, and there are great programs to help parents and kids go through the transition after the diagnosis.

“I think there’s a lot of preconceived ideas about what diabetes is,” adds Irvine. “JDRF, especially the Heartland Chapter, is doing such a great job educating people about what T1D is through their outreach programs and events.”

As the chapter grows, greater emphasis is being placed on outreach efforts. The Bag of Hope is an education and outreach program available through the chapter that is designed to reach young children and teenagers with diabetes and their families at the time of diagnosis. The Bag of Hope contains a comprehensive collection of educational and comforting materials for the entire family. The chapter’s long-range plans include the establishment of support groups covering topics from initial diagnosis to adolescence issues and beyond.

Each year, the Heartland Chapter also holds two annual fundraising events: Walk to Cure Diabetes and the Promise Gala. This year’s Walk to Cure Diabetes in August raised more than $750,000 for diabetes research and included not only the traditional walk but also a T1D 5K Dash. Like the Walk to Cure Diabetes, the Promise Gala is another large fundraising effort during the year. “Funds raised during the Fund a Cure portion of the evening go directly to research—not overhead or events costs or anything else,” explains Fraser. “We also educate those new to JDRF through video presentations on cutting-edge research, as well as the very personal stories of children, adults, and families living with the burden of T1D.”

The 16th Annual JDRF Promise Gala will be hosted at CenturyLink Center Omaha on February 23. The theme of the evening is “Hit T1D Out of the Park – We’re Bringing Home a Cure!” The event will start at 6pm with cocktails and a silent auction, followed by dinner and a special program. Dress code for the event is cocktail attire (black-tie optional).

For more information about the JDRF Heartland Chapter or to reserve tickets for this year’s Promise Gala, visit jdrf.org/omaha or call 402-397-2873.