September 2015 — The Waller family is determined to make an impact in the search for a cure. Their involvement with the Diabetes Research Institute dates back to 1989 when Roberta and Bruce Waller’s daughter, Dara Melnick, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“When your child is diagnosed with diabetes, you feel so helpless,” stated Roberta, who as a young mom reached out to another diabetes organization in her area to get involved and find support. But it was her father, Rowland Schaefer, who introduced them to the DRI.
Bruce explained, “My father-in-law made Dara a promise that he would find a place that could cure her diabetes. He believed in the vision and the research being conducted at the DRI.”
Dara recalled being at the DRI’s dedication ceremony when she was just a little girl. “I remember watching my grandparents cutting the ribbon to open the new building. It was an honor to be there with them then and to watch the DRI continue to grow over the years,” she said.
Rowland and his wife, Sylvia, who both passed away in 2013, will forever be remembered as two of the organizations most generous donors. In honor of their support, the DRI building bears their name, and in 2014 the Northeast’s Crystal Ball renamed one of its annual honors as the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Award. The inaugural recipient was the scientist leading the way to a cure, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, director of the DRI.
Roberta and Bruce have continued that legacy through major donations to the organization, as well as being actively involved in multiple events as committee members and sponsors. Their family serves as the Underwriting Sponsors for both the Crystal Ball and Fall Into Fashion, and Roberta has worked on the committees of both events. Bruce serves on the DRI Foundation’s National Board of Directors and co-chairs the Crystal Ball, along with his sister, Wendy Waller. Wendy has co-chaired past events like Champions for Charity, Wedding Veil Walk for a Cure and Fall Into Fashion. All three are members of the Northeast Board of Directors. And following in their footsteps, Dara attends fundraising events with her husband, Jeremy Melnick, and she co-chaired Champions for Charity in 2014.
“The goal is to raise as much money as we can in order to find a cure for diabetes, and that’s why we support the DRI. It’s something that is worth all of the time and effort that we all put into it,” said Wendy. “Plus, I love working with all of the people involved on the committees and on the board. It’s truly a team effort.”
“We feed off the strength of doing this together,” Roberta added. “Being in New York, we don’t see the researchers every day. But when I put my finger on the pulse of what’s really happening at the DRI, and I speak to Dr. Ricordi and others at the Institute, I get charged knowing that we are very close. We all share the same dream of a cure.”