At 92, North America’s Most Inspiring Fundraiser Rode Through Death Valley to Support JDRF — and Plans to Do It Again!

Jack Hughes, who at the age of 92 participated in a JDRF fundraising bike ride in the blistering heat of Death Valley, today was honored with the 2020 Cash, Sweat & Tears Award as North America’s most inspiring fundraising volunteer.

Hughes, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) more than half a century ago, has been a tireless rider in 10 JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes events – and plans to embark on yet another fundraising ride in Death Valley in October.  He has raised over $400,000 to date for JDRF, the leading global organization funding T1D research.

“Jack epitomizes everything that is great about peer-to-peer fundraising,” said David Hessekiel, founder and president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, which created this award. “Not only does he push himself to ride and raise money, he’s an amazing ambassador for JDRF and is inspiring countless people through his example.”

About the Award

Each year since 2009, the Cash Sweat & Tears award has been given to an extraordinary volunteer for going above and beyond to conduct peer-to-peer fundraising for charity.

In peer-to-peer fundraising, a nonprofit’s supporters reach out to their friends, family and colleagues for donations often in connection with an activity such as a walk or ride. Collectively, these campaigns raise billions for nonprofits across North America.

A Family Affair

For Hughes, support for JDRF began late in his life. He participated in his first ride in 2011. Since then, his participation has become a family affair. Hughes’ son, daughter, grandson, and granddaughter all ride with him. At the 2019 Death Valley Ride, his great granddaughter Estelle was at the finish line cheering him on.

“It’s special to be able to do this with my family,” Hughes says. “And the rides are like being part of an even bigger family. Everyone is there to support each other.”

Hughes said he doesn’t consider himself to be a great fundraiser. He simply feels strongly about the cause and wants to do something to show his gratitude.

“I wouldn’t still be here today if it wasn’t for the advancements that JDRF has helped make possible,” he said.

Hughes was diagnosed with T1D in 1968 and has been managing the disease ever since. Shortly after his diagnosis, he resolved to improve his diet and begin exercising more regularly.

These changes led him to begin riding his bike – a habit he continues today. Hughes still logs as many as 100 miles per week on a recumbent bicycle to train for the JDRF Ride events.

“Jack’s support of JDRF’s mission to improve lives as we drive toward cures for type 1 diabetes has been unwavering,” said Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., JDRF President and CEO. “We are excited to celebrate and congratulate Jack on receiving this well-deserved accolade.”

Hughes’ participation in the rides has become about much more than raising money. At each ride, he’s often stopped by other riders for pictures – and he draws thunderous cheers from supporters.

“He’s a soft-spoken hero for our team that everyone looks up to,” said Melanie Schmid, senior development coordinator for JDRF. “When Jack shows up at a JDRF ride, he brings the cash and sweat. And when Jack crosses the finish line, year after year, we all bring the tears.”

About the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum

The Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum supports professionals who manage peer-to-peer fundraising events at nonprofits around the world. It offers a growing array of conferences, webinars, research, white papers, and case studies that aim to help these professionals gain knowledge and insights that help them become more effective fundraisers.

About the Cash, Sweat & Tears Award

The Cash, Sweat & Tears award honors the passion of the nonprofit world’s most extraordinary volunteers — the people who take on physical challenges or overcome tremendous obstacles raise money from their friends, family, and colleagues for U.S. charities.

Each year, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum invites the organizers of athletic fundraising programs in the United States to nominate one inspiring participant for the award. The nomination period opens each November and the winners are announced at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s annual conference.   

Learn more at

About T1D

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.