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Professor Vandevelde to Bike Death Valley for Juvenile Diabetes

August 17, 2012

Professor Ken Vandevelde and Jenny Vandevelde
Professor Ken Vandevelde and Jenny Vandevelde
Professor Ken Vandevelde and Jenny Vandevelde

Bicycling 90 miles in the scorching heat of Death Valley to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) represents much more than a humanitarian endeavor and endurance challenge for Professor Ken Vandevelde and his 23-year-old daughter Jenny. It’s a deeply personal mission because Jenny has lived with juvenile diabetes, also known as type l diabetes (T1D), since she was 14.

“This disease cannot be prevented, but there is hope for a cure,” says Professor Vandevelde. “That is why we are riding.”

To help find that cure, the close father-daughter team has committed to raising $6,000 before they begin their long Death Valley bike trek on October 20. Next weekend, along with Professor Vandevelde’s wife Lidia, they are hosting an impressive fundraising event and invite members of the TJSL community to support the cause.

T1D is an autoimmune disease that kills the insulin-producing cells in the body that enable people to get energy from food. It can strike anyone. Unlike type ll diabetes, it is not related to a person’s weight or activity level. Millions of people worldwide have juvenile diabetes.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are alarming: T1D in people under age 20 rose by 23 percent in the last decade.

Jenny Vandevelde, who has experienced her own close calls with the disease, has lost two friends to juvenile diabetes in just the past year.  One was an 8-year-old boy she counseled at a summer camp for children with diabetes. He died in his sleep. 

“That is what juvenile diabetes does,” Professor Vandevelde explains. “It kills children while they sleep. If you are a parent with a child who has diabetes, you go to bed every night wondering whether your child will be alive in the morning. If you are a child with diabetes, you go to bed every night not knowing whether you will wake up.”

This marks the third time in recent years that he and his daughter have participated in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Death Valley.  Situated within the Mojave Desert in Eastern California near the Nevada border, Death Valley definitely earns its name by being home to the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America.

“In 2006, we rode 58 miles in a temperature of 117 degrees,” recalls Professor Vandevelde. “The heat was so intense that Jenny’s glucose meter stopped working and she had to complete much of the ride with blood sugar levels that were more than four times the normal level, a condition that is both physically painful and dangerous, but she refused to give up. In 2007, we rode 66 miles in a temperature of 109 degrees while fighting ferocious winds that gusted at up to 80 miles per hour and that repeatedly blew us off the road.”

No matter how hot it gets this year, their goal is to ride the full 90 miles – 10 years for each year that Jenny has had diabetes. They’ve been training all summer, but as Professor Vandevelde notes, “Training is the easy part. The real struggle is fundraising.”

They’ve already raised some of their $6,000 pledge through donations and are hoping to raise more with their fundraising extravaganza under the stars this Saturday, August 25, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at a private home in the beautiful gated community of Santa Luz. For the cost of a $20 admission ticket, guests will be treated to a delicious paella dinner prepared by a local restaurant chef, live entertainment by Season 10 American Idol contestant Kristi Krause and a local jazz band, and a silent auction featuring more than $7,000 worth of great items. Among the many auction items are an X Box 360 Kinect, a tandem paragliding session, a kayak tour of the La Jolla Caves, a Humanoid Wakeboard, a private surfing lesson, and gift cards to numerous San Diego restaurants and other businesses.

“This is an opportunity to acquire some great stuff at well below market value,” says Professor Vandevelde. “But most important, your ticket or donation will also bring you the good karma that comes from helping millions of children who suffer from this autoimmune disease or will suffer from it if a cure is not found.”

All proceeds will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, but only 100 tickets to the fundraiser will be sold. To purchase tickets, contact Professor Vandevelde at You also may donate online at or by check payable to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.