The Gift of Giving


By: Suzanne Reisler Litwin

Many, many years ago my friends, two very handsome brothers, developed Type I Diabetes.  Their parents created a Bike-A-Thon activity in our small community to help raise awareness and funds for diabetes research. We were to ride our bikes for 50 kilometers and ask people to sponsor our efforts.  The money raised would help support research into curing diabetes. The brothers asked me to participate. I was around 18-19 years old at the time.  OF COURSE, I would help out! I loved riding my bike and raising money.  I went door to door asking people to sponsor me for the event. That year I raised about $100.00.

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The event was fun and popular and it became a yearly May time activity in our community.   As time passed, many more people got involved to ride and raise funds. At that time the charitable organization was called The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

With the passing of time, the event got so big that our small community could not support the amount of cyclists.  So, the event was moved to a larger city wide location.  The name of the event changed too. It was now called The JDF Cyclothon. We biked 50 kilometers to help raise funds to find a cure for diabetes.  During that time, I raised approximately 2 to 5 thousand dollars per event.

When the big JDF city event started, I made a promise to my friends that I would continue to raise funds until they were cured. So, I’m still at it, 35+ years later.

The large Cyclothon event came upon some very bad weather luck for a few years. It was rained out for about 4 years in a row. This dampened our spirits and also caused cycling problems along the route.

After much discussion, the Cyclthon was converted into a Walk Event. The name of the charity organization also changed to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation or JDRF.  Now, this organization has offices across Canada!

I still raise funds to help find a cure for my friends who still have Type 1 Diabetes. Now, more people I know have type 1 diabetes, so I certainly can’t stop.

Each year in April, I send out letters to my very dedicated sponsors in a theme. Last year I presented myself as Elvis.  Actually, I was Sue-Elvis! I was a Hunka Hunka Curin Love!  My sponsors received a gift inside each mailing package. Each year, I hope they will continue to sponsor me and our efforts to raise funds.

For over 25 years I have sent out creative packages asking people to sponsor me for the Bike-a-thon, or the Cyclothon, and now the TELUS Walk to Cure Diabetes. I still have some of my original sponsors from 35+ years ago. They are dedicated, wonderful kind people who have stuck with me as I have stuck with my quest. We at JDRF are so appreciative.

With the Internet and on-line donating, my sponsors can go to my Donation Page and send their donation directly to JDRF. In return, I get an email stating that a donation has been made to my Walk Team “Suzie’s Sweethearts”.

My letters will go out in April of this year. I spend many hours putting the packages together with the help of my friends and family. Prior to that, I spend months thinking about my theme, creating and honing it. My letters have to grab the attention of my sponsors. It needs to cause a reaction!  I hope this year’s letter campaign will be successful in raising more funds for JDRF.

The beautiful part of this experience is the “Gift Giving” I receive.  Although, the donation gifts are not directly for me in anyway, I still feel gifted.  After the letters are mailed out and during the 6 weeks following, I will be bestowed with donation gifts. 

Hopefully, my sponsors will send donations to JDRF and to my Walk team.  Every online donation creates an email I receive.  The email reads, “You have received a donation!  The email tells me who sent the donation and the amount. It is a GIFT!  It makes me feel like I have received a prize.  This happens almost every day for about 6 weeks and it feels AMAZING!!!!

This situation is truly a WIN WIN experience.  I put in many hours of work and creativity, which I love to do.  Then I am given donation gifts for at least 6 weeks.  It is so comforting, exciting, thrilling, uniquely rewarding, and…FUN!

Selfishly, I can’t get enough of the good feeling it gives me.  On the day of the Walk to Cure Diabetes, my teammates and I walk with tremendous pride.  We smile throughout the event.

My theme this year is still a secret.  It will be unveiled in April.  I can give you a hint… We are going to Boogie Woogie Walk this year!

For more information about the WALK event, please go to  At this site you will find all the information you need. Perhaps you feel like taking a lovely stroll in a beautiful park on Sunday June 11th, 2017?

Giving creates bountiful of receiving and maybe with some luck, we will change the world.

Suzanne Reisler Litwin an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban newspaper.   She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her 3 children, Allyn, Taylor, and Duke and her husband Laurie. Suzanne contributes regularly to West Island Blog under her column “Keeping it Real”.  Please visit her website
  to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.