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Jeff Hill: Dedicated Dad Goes the Distance

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Jeff Hill

Jeff Hill /Brian Kelly Photography

Jeff Hill Bikes Off

Jeff Hill Bikes Off /Brian Kelly Photography

Jeff Hill

Jeff Hill /Brian Kelly Photography

This is how dedicated Jeff Hill is to finding a cure for juvenile diabetes: he’s given up golf for the summer. 
The avid once or twice a week golfer is spending his summer riding a bike 80-100 miles a week. Unlike golfing, the biking isn’t just for fun and camaraderie; he’s riding to raise research funds for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
Come October he’ll be riding with a team of 45 people from West Michigan to Death Valley, California in October. The 100-mile ride takes place in one day, “Sunrise to sunset,” said Hill. “It is 105 miles and should take me about 10 hours.” Hill will be among 500 riders from across the US traveling to the site. Death Valley is known for being one of America’s hottest locales, but its autumn temperatures are more moderate, in the 80s and 90s.
Hill is riding because his 10-year-old daughter, Emma has type 1 juvenile diabetes. She has had it since she was five. “It is a genetic disease and there is no cure,” said Hill. Until a cure is discovered, people with diabetes need to test their blood sugar every day, take insulin via injection or pump (Emma uses a pager-size pump) and must take care with the foods they eat and the amount of exercise they get.
“Because there is no cure and we want to see one someday, we’ve been supporting JDRF quite a bit. Its sole mission is research for a cure,” said Hill. The ride is a fundraiser for JDRF. Each rider must commit to raise at least $4,000 to participate. The expense to bring the riders and bikes to the ride site is then covered. Through donations from friends and family, a celebrity barista event at the downtown Biggby Coffee and a Facebook recruitment drive for The Corner Bar in Rockford Hill has raised more than half of his goal. He’s working now on a Las Vegas night event. Hill has a webpage which tracks his progress.
Diabetes is especially hard on children who will have the disease all of their lives. Long-term it can affect the kidneys, heart, eyes and nervous system.
“Diabetes definitely forces us to work as a team to manage Emma’s health.  It also has made us more cognizant of what is going into our own bodies, not just Emma’s, especially the amount of sugar that we eat,” said Hill. Emma’s diabetes also prompted his wife Laura to work with Forest Hills Public Schools on a Healthy Snacks initiative, which is slowly being introduced in the district. The Hills have two other daughters, Kelsey who is eight and Meghan who is six.
“So far, I’m loving the riding,” said Hill. “I like pushing myself physically and mentally. I’m doing something physically, that I’ve never done before.” Hill has seen his cycling improve and can maintain an 18-20 mph pace. “I’m keeping up with the group.” Every few weeks he rides with the group of people that he will ride with in Death Valley. “We are doing 40 mile rides and will do a100 mile practice ride before the event,” he said. USA Cycling provides a certified coach or coaches for local groups to ensure participants will be successful. The local affiliate JDRF West Michigan Chapter also provides support for the fundraising aspect of the event.
Prior to this event, Hill had been involved with JDRF doing local walks and other fundraisers, but this physical and fundraising event presents a new level of commitment to the cause, one that he admits takes him away from his family more than he would like. “But it will be worth it if we can help find a cure.”

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What a terrific way for you to tell your daughter, Emma, how much you love her!:) She'll never forget your extra efforts.  Best of luck with the long, hot, and steamy trip!  sh