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Ford Bronco 2021 limited edition in lightening blue

Holiday gifts can come in all shapes and sizes, and for one Tennessee man that’s in the form of a new 2021 Ford Bronco along with new awareness about type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Despite not having a personal connection to diabetes, Derek Bonzagni heard about a longstanding annual fundraising sweepstakes organized by the JDRF and Ford Motor Company.

The famous Ford family has been touched by diabetes — the young son of Henry Ford’s great grandson was diagnosed with T1D — so the company’s been working with the diabetes advocacy and awareness organizations since 1983, and has donated or raised $65 million for the diabetes cause. This annual car sweepstakes has been happening for almost 25 years, raising $495,000 since it first began.

So, when Bonzagni learned about the 2021 sweepstakes on the final day before it closed Dec. 1, he thought “‘Tis the season” and made a contribution.

That’s all it took, and Bonzagni found himself winning the first edition 4-door Ford Bronco, painted in lightning blue and including a light-bar and credit certificate for extra items to purchase for the vehicle. The starting base retail price of this first edition Bronco is $61,605, according to Kelly Blue Book pricing online.

Derek Bonzagni

The new Bronco is expected to arrive locally for him to pick up just in time for Christmas, according to a Ford spokesperson.

“I’m still trying to process this in my mind,” Bonzagni told DiabetesMine on a phone call, a week before Christmas. “I have never won anything before, but have always enjoyed giving to charity. I didn’t think anything of it. When I first heard about it, I didn’t believe it… you’re thinking, ‘OK, who is trying to scam me today, right?’ But it’s simply amazing and I am blown away.”

Bonzagni said he hadn’t ever heard of JDRF before entering the sweepstakes. Though he’s been warned about developing prediabetes, his only T1D connection are some friends he grew up with who’d exposed him to things like insulin injections and having orange juice on standby in case of low blood sugars.

Working in the car dealership world, Bonzagni learned about the contest through an online forum for Bronco-lovers and Ford’s attachment to this assured him it was legit.

Coincidentally, Bonzagni said he had just purchased a different Ford Bronco for his wife earlier in the year. That was a 2-door SUV, one with a more rugged style given they live in a rural area outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. He had pre-ordered it and the Bronco was built in June, but because of pandemic delays they didn’t get that vehicle until early November. In less than a month, the JDRF and Ford sweepstakes caught his eye and that same day he learned they’d be receiving an all-new Ford Bronco.

Now he has a Ford Bronco, just like his wife.

“It’s funny how this all worked out,” he laughed.

The other bit of serendipity is learning about T1D and the work JDRF does. Bonzagni said he’s happy to have found out about the organization’s mission and be able to help out.

“We have a 5-year-old and 9-year-old daughter, and I just hope that doesn’t happen to them,” he said about T1D. “So, what can we do to make a difference? Every little bit counts. I’m sure what I gave isn’t close to what other people gave, but we do what we can.”

The amount donated as the winning entry isn’t publicly disclosed.

Moral of the story: You don’t have to be personally connected to diabetes to give back to this community, nor does it mean you can’t learn more about T1D and be a part of the awareness-raising and fundraising efforts moving forward.

“Support in funding research to treat, cure, and prevent type 1 diabetes is a community effort,” JDRF CEO Aaron Kowalski said. “Whether a person is directly impacted by the disease, sees the burden from afar, or is new to the space, JDRF is thankful to every individual who sows into fundraising for our organization to support the mission. Together we will make a difference.”

Bonzagni certainly sees it that way, too.

He spent time researching T1D and learning more about it once learning that he’d won, and he plans to continue raising awareness and stepping up as much as he’s able. Though he hadn’t yet reached out to his T1D friends before the holiday season, he’s hoping to talk with them more about their experiences in living with this condition and being a part of the D-Community going forward.

“I think people have good hearts and we all want to do the right thing, and that’s what I try to do,” he said. “I’m definitely paying more attention to type 1 diabetes now, and do plan to help out more in the future, of course.”

Bonzagni added, “This is such a blessing, and I want to try and bless people back. ‘Tis the season. The holidays can be a bittersweet time for some people, so anything we can do to help is what we try to do.”