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Swing to Cure Diabetes Fundraiser Approaches $1M Mark

August 29, 2019

After another successful Swing to Cure Diabetes golf outing this spring at the University of Michigan Golf Course, the event is closing in on the $1 million mark for Type 1 diabetes research.

The 11th annual event held in May raised over $90,000 this year and just over $900,000 since the event began. In June, event founder and Varnum attorney Rich Hewlett wrapped up a busy two-year tenure as president of JDRF-Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan. He continues to serve that organization in a leadership position and with fundraising efforts, but the annual golf outing at the U-M course holds a special place for Hewlett and his family. Hewlett played for the Michigan football team during several championship seasons under Coach Bo Schembechler, and he is supported each year at the golf outing by other current and former Michigan players and coaches as well as family and friends.

“The people who come to golf, the sponsors, the people who volunteer to staff the event – they’ve been a part of our lives for many years and part of the golf outing for more than 10 years now,” Hewlett said. “They have not only supported Type 1 diabetes research, they have also supported me and my family, and shared in the highs and lows of our lives. I can’t say enough about how much that support has meant to us.”

Hewlett became involved in fundraising for diabetes research after his oldest son, Jeff, was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 4. Together with his late wife Chris, Hewlett organized and built the golf event into a major fundraiser benefitting both the University of Michigan Diabetes Research Center and JDRF-Metro Detroit/Southeast Michigan chapter. Jeff, now 25, is a Michigan graduate who recently completed his second year of law school. Younger brother Joe is also a Michigan graduate who played football for the Wolverines and is now employed at a private equity firm. Both have both taken part in the annual event since they were old enough to golf, and Jeff has served as host of the event for the past several years.

In addition to U-M players and coaches, this year’s event also included participants from the Michigan Diabetes Research Center. Endocrinologist Dr. Peter Arvan spoke at the dinner following golf and noted the importance of fundraisers like Swing to Cure.  

Hewlett also serves on the board and executive committee of JDRF and is just coming off a two-year term as board president. During his tenure, the board reshaped the governance structure and hired a new executive director. The organization’s primary fundraising effort, the annual Promise Ball, also grew significantly under his leadership, raising over $2 million in each of the past two years.

“We just worked at getting people in the right position and let them do their jobs,” Hewlett said. He credited Executive Director Nikki Borges for much of the organization’s recent success. “She’s built a great staff, and we truly have some really good volunteers.”

Hewlett remains active with JDRF, including serving on a nominating committee to identify future board members and others who can fulfill the organization’s mission. He said this is an exciting time for the organization with some ambitious plans in the future. Fundraising will be key to those plans, and Hewlett said he looks forward to next year’s golf outing.

“This event means a lot to me and my family, not only because of the money we’re raising for research, but every year to see the support from my friends, family and teammates is gratifying,” Hewlett said. “It is a special day to me and my family.”

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