Ann Arbor — Former Michigan quarterback Rich Hewlett and his late wife, Chris, wanted to do something to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes after their son, Jeff, was diagnosed.
They created the Swing to Cure Diabetes golf outing, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Monday at the Michigan Golf Course, and has raised about $800,000 since its creation. The funds benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center.
Longtime Michigan coach Lloyd Carr dropped by at the event as he always does, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh visited for an hour before heading to the airport with his daughter, Addie, for a mission trip to Peru.
“It’s that extra bonus that makes it an extra special event,” said Michigan running back Joe Hewlett, who plays for Harbaugh, said of his coach’s participation in the event.
The JDRF works in conjunction with Michigan in its research efforts to find a cure.
“I’m sure my parents started this event thinking, ‘Oh, this will help our son,’” said Jeff Hewlett, who was diagnosed when he was four. “For that I’m certainly grateful, but there are many people who are just like me and many other diabetics who are also grateful.
“It’s really impacting a lot of people, and you can see it in the research and the advances that have been made for Type 1 diabetes. Hopefully over the years as this thing keeps growing and as we continue with it, it will be something that can hopefully lead to a cure. That’s ultimately what we’re looking for.”
Rich Hewlett, an attorney with the Varnum law firm, sees considerable support each year from colleagues at his firm, his high school teammates, and teammates and coaches from Michigan. His sons have played in the event since they were young boys and now bring their friends to the event.
“I think at about the five-year mark is when I started to think this thing was done,” said Rich Hewlett, who hopes to hit the $1 million raised mark in two years. “We were getting close to having a full field of golfers, and right around Year 5 or 6, we hit the full field, and we have had a full field every year since then.
“And so every year I keep thinking, ‘This is the last year. This is the last year,’ but my friends, especially when I tell them I think we’re done, they’re all like, ‘Well, why? Why would you stop this?’ They love coming out. They love playing and participating and we’re doing it for a good cause, obviously, and I keep saying we’ll do it on a yearly basis.”
For Joe Hewlett, it’s all about supporting his brother, but the family enjoys how much the Michigan and Ann Arbor communities rally around their cause.
“It’s been amazing,” he said. “We get the whole family sense of having all our family and friends out here and it’s a staple in our yearly calendar and with everyone else’s, too. We’ve seen it grow and it’s taken on more than us, I would say.
“It’s not just about Jeff anymore. It’s about a lot of kids and about mom, so it’s taken on as a more meaningful thing as we’ve gotten older. Obviously, it’s a big part of our lives, but it’s been a big part of everyone else’s too, which is pretty special.”
Jeff, who completed his first year of law school at Wayne State, said having Harbaugh attend always takes the event up a notch.
“It speaks to how generous he is with his time because he rolls in and it’s like, ‘Coach Harbaugh is here,’ and, ‘Yeah, I gotta leave for a flight in an hour,’” Jeff Hewlett said. “That speaks to the kind of person he is and the kind of mentality and the general character they have in the football program.
“To have that kind of support, there’s no words for it. They don’t need to come here and support this. They’re taking time out of their busy schedules to come help us and that means a lot to our family.”