Why I Give: Barbara Donnell on the importance of endurance—and hope

For Barbara Donnell, La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) has always been a place for inspiration and collaboration. The San Diego philanthropist and fundraiser has enjoyed attending events, learning about research, and getting acquainted with staff and scientists over the years.

Together with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Institute (JDRF), Donnell has organized the annual “Meet the Scientists” event at LJI, at which kids diagnosed with diabetes and their families can meet diabetes researchers and learn about the latest science. “It’s an all-day educational event,” says Donnell. “It’s very interactive and uplifting for the kids and families as well as the scientists.”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. “Meet the Scientists” was cancelled. The research funding world was reeling. With her experience in philanthropy, Donnell knew how hard it would be for researchers to get new projects off the ground.

Donnell has been a steady supporter of LJI labs, and she had given additional funding this year to LJI’s SPARK Program for early career investigators. When she heard that LJI would be running the international Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, she decided to make an additional gift to the institute.

“Every bit counts,” says Donnell. “I just felt compelled to break my budget and give an additional gift of stock.”

As the pandemic continues, Donnell is encouraged by LJI’s “Live from the Laboratory” webinar series, which highlights LJI teams and their progress toward COVID-19 therapies and vaccines.

Donnell also understands the importance of every penny raised for scientific research. She began working with JDRF in 2001, when her daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. One of Donnell’s roles was to act as a bridge between the foundation and San Diego’s research institutes. That work brought her to LJI.

“I just fell in love with the place and the scientists,” Donnell says. “La Jolla Institute shines for me.”

Donnell is confident researchers will develop new therapies and vaccines for COVID-19. It will just take time. “I’ve been on a quest for a type 1 diabetes cure for years, so I understand that you have to have so much endurance and patience.”

“I know how dedicated, how hardworking, how passionate these scientists are, and I know they are pushing the envelope. They are going way beyond,” says Donnell. “La Jolla Institute researchers are in this, heart, and soul. And because I know that, I have hope.”

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