“When I take a deep breath and look back at where we’ve been, and where we’re going, I have to take a view of gratitude,” Garrett Jerue said.
That’s because, as the young corporate insurance specialist at The Insurance Center committed to leaving a lasting, positive footprint will tell you, his journey has been filled with many people and many blessings.
When it comes to helping clients and their families navigate the tricky intricacies of insurance, oftentimes working with people who are experiencing the most challenging of times, Jerue’s business has personal resonance.
As a college student, Jerue was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At a time when he could have buckled from the news, the young man never gave up.
“My passion is to pay it for-ward, as far as health,” Jerue said. “I just wanted to help families understand their policies.”
It’s something he understood all too well: By 21 years old, he had $600,000 in medical bills. But, he also had passion, compassion, tenacity and support from those closest to him.
That passion, and that personal mission, made him stand out as a senior at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where he earned a degree in finance.
One of his professors pulled him aside, sending him headlong into an insurance career he didn’t exactly see coming.
He also didn’t see taking his fight against cancer public, but as anyone who knows Jerue will tell you, his commitment to community awareness and service is almost unparalleled.
“Garrett Jerue is a shining example of someone who understands the importance of giving back to his community,” said Katheryn Keppel, one of two people who nominated Jerue for Rising Stars Under 40. “Garrett has made his mark in his chosen field of insurance. More important, he is a community leader who co-founded an organization that has provided vital support to teens and young adults in the Coulee Region.”
During his treatment, Keppel said, Jerue discovered that existing programs for cancer patients didn’t address the unique challenges and life choices facing people in their teens and 20s. That experience led him to co-found A Bump in the Road, a one-on-one peer mentoring program that connects patients with a survivor mentor based on similarities in cancer, life experience and personality.
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That led to an even larger undertaking: The Hope Lives Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to support cancer prevention and survivor programs that strengthen children and young adults in the community by offering a helping hand to those in need, she said.
The foundation supports programs that promote healthy lifestyles, such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater La Crosse’s Adopt-a-Child program, as well as support for those in need through mentoring and financial assistance through scholarships. It has funded the creation of an oncology center for teens and young adults at Gundersen, and equipment for cancer researchers at UW-La Crosse. It also partners with the La Crosse YMCA in funding the Livestrong program, which helps patients bounce back after treatment.
“For several years,” Keppel said, “the Foundation has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs for the annual glow in the dark run, known as Glow in the Deke. This event, held annually in memory of Garrett’s friend and mentor, Derrick Kroll, raises funds for the Adopt-A-Child Program.”
Jerue has mentored more than 50 teens and young adults undergoing treatment and recovering from cancer.
“Garrett’s community service has been recognized by his own industry,” she said. “In 2016, he was honored as the first-ever recipient of the Scotty McIntyre Jr. Go Beyond Award, sponsored by the United Fire Group of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The award recognizes agents with exceptional community service and contributions to their chosen causes.”
Nick Balduzzi, who also nominated Jerue, said those who know him professionally encounter the same sterling qualities in his office.
“Garrett works with business owners and employees to help both sides with their insurance needs,” Balduzzi said. “He is a very open-minded and creative person that is always looking out for the best plan for the businesses.”
Jerue said he loves going to work every day, and he won’t ever give up, not on his clients, his community, his family or himself. And he won’t take half-measures, either.
“Our society doesn’t reward mediocrity,” Jerue said. “You have to give it your all.”
By 21 years old, Jerue had $600,000 in medical bills. But, he also had passion, compassion, tenacity and support from those closest to him.