The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation announced the largest bequest in the foundation's history this week.
Mrs. Helene Whitlock Alley left the JDRF a remarkable $7.3 million. What came from tragedy could have an extraordinary effect on diabetes research in the coming years.
Both the JDRF website and today's Washington Post recount the story of the extremely generous donation by 88-year-old Mrs. Alley. Mrs. Alley and her husband, Ruben, died tragically in a house fire in Annapolis, MD in March 2007.
In her will, Mrs. Alley directed that the majority of her assets be given to the JDRF. According to Washington Post, she was a regular donor with $100 gifts and a promise of a $200,000 bequest upon her death. No one expected the gift to be of this magnitude. JDRF's director of National planned giving, Alan Berkowitz, referred to Ms. Alley as the "millionaire next door."
A family member's battle with diabetes motivated Mrs. Alley's giving. She saw the challenges and dangers of living with type 1 diabetes through her own brother's struggle. Theodore Whitlock, Jr. had lived with diabetes and died at age 73. Mrs. Alley wrote in her will, "Those who can should help when they can to find a cure for diabetes". Her gift is made in memory of her father and brother.
I'm going to purchase some of the books Mrs. Alley's son Robert W. Alley illustrated. As I perused Amazon's list I was struck by theme of his children's books - all were about coping with life's challenges. Interestingly enough the first book that shows up is When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child's Guide to Good Grief.
As Robert W. Alley and his family approach the first anniversary of their parents' and grandparents' death, I hope the Alley grandchildren know that their Grandmother is a hero to millions of families who live with diabetes.
I'm in awe of this profound act of generosity and faith. Thank you, Helene Whitlock Alley.
Published On: February 11, 2008