An aunt’s dedication crosses with a newscaster’s network to help type 1 diabetics

SIOUX FALLS, SD – Type 1 diabetes stalked Jessi Buer’s family, invading the immune systems of select members of each generation.

An uncle died as a result of diabetes.

Buer’s brother lived with it before she was born.

“It’s always been a part of my life,” said Buer, who lives in DeSmet. “It was normal for my family.”

Then, three years ago, her niece Sierra—Buer’s “little girl”—was also diagnosed.

It was another blow, another familial connection to a disease that usually occurs in childhood and for which there is no cure other than treatment with insulin and diet.

On this journey, however, perhaps the scarcest medicine is information.

Buer discovered this while watching Sierra and her parents navigate the effects of a life-changing diagnosis. They just didn’t get the support and resources that Buer knew they needed and deserved.

She contacted the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation chapter, which covers South Dakota as well as Minnesota and North Dakota.

“I gave them my two cents and a piece of my opinion,” she said.

Which led to a seat on the board after those things.

Which, as things go, revealed a situation that was more serious than expected.

The pandemic had devastated the organization. The local office, which once had one full-time employee, has been closed due to cutbacks.

“To be honest, there wasn’t a focus on South Dakota at all for JDRF,” she said.

Buer dived in and basically organized the annual fundraising walk by himself last June. And although she wished it was bigger, at least it happened.

Previous JDRF One Walks had attracted up to 1,000 people prior to the pandemic.

Last year there were around 100 participants. Still, they raised about $13,000 that day, surpassing the goal.

It was a start, but the way forward seemed difficult, to say the least.

It’s a 90-minute drive from DeSmet to Sioux Falls. Buer has a full-time job in the financial crime business and two sons to raise.

“I tend to burn myself out because I don’t know my limits,” she said.

Brian Allen.jpg
Brian Allen, News Anchor, Dakota News Now in Sioux Falls.


Then Brian Allen showed up.

Yes, TV’s Brian Allen, the news anchor at Dakota News Now.

The Brian Allen with a big heart and a childhood spent battling an autoimmune disease.

And by the way around 2,500 Facebook followers.

He spread the word, which brought volunteers to the matter. And he teamed up with Buer to form a team of two.

I’ve known Brian for about three decades, from working as a young reporter in Sioux City to covering the Iowa Legislature. We had something of a reunion when he arrived back in Sioux Falls to take over the anchor chair at KSFY, which has since been incorporated into the Dakota News Now broadcasting collective.

I know him to be a serious and thoughtful person, which is arguably the antithesis of a pop culture TV cartoon.

So I believe his commitment to children and JDRF is genuine and non-public.

“While the end result is fundraising, we’re trying to engage more people by talking about compassion, kindness, and empathy,” Allen told me when we first spoke about his interest in JDRF. “If we recognize a need and do nothing about it, what does that say about us?”

Details are coming together for the 2023 JDRF One Walk in Sioux Falls. The exact date and location are yet to be determined, but it will be early June 2023.

More than 30 people attended an organizational meeting in October. There will certainly be more hands to get the job done.

In addition to raising awareness, Buer hopes to bring people with type 1 diabetes together for support and information sharing. Her niece is now 15 and it has only been three years since she was diagnosed.

Experience shows that people with Type 1 need to know what options are available to them and how to access resources.

The happy pairing of an aunt on a mission and a news anchor with a platform can go a long way towards making this happen.

“I get kind of pissed off,” Buer admits. “The diabetics in my life deserve these resources.”