In the Spotlight
He knew she died as a baby, but it wasn’t until he turned 25 that he found the courage to ask his parents about the sister he never met. He learned that Wendy had died from cystic fibrosis — the same disease Andy was diagnosed with at birth.
“My parents kept those details from me because they didn’t want to scare me,” said Andy, who is now 40. “Growing up, I didn’t think I would live to be an adult. So when I learned that my sister also had CF, it was life changing. It gave me the resolve I needed to continue fighting for myself and for all people who have CF.”
Not long after having that difficult conversation with his parents, Andy wrote a book about his struggles with CF. He donated some of the proceeds to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, but he wanted to do more. So in 2000, he decided to combine his love for sports, his family and his community by creating a city-wide softball tournament named in honor of his sister. He calls it A Wish for Wendy.“I wanted something to remember her by. I want people to know who she was and for her to have some kind of existence on this Earth,” Andy said.
He worked with the Georgia Chapter of the CF Foundation to promote the event and attract sponsors, growing it into one of the largest charity softball tournaments in the country.
A Wish for Wendy has generated $1.9 million in support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s mission to find a cure for CF. Sixteen teams complete in the day-long, double-elimination tournament for top prizes. Thanks to help and support from Andy’s family, the Atlanta community and celebrities like the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders, the event continues to grow year after year.
“Every dollar we raise is going to help people live longer — and there’s nothing better than that,” Andy said.
Chairing the softball tournament isn’t the only way Andy gives back to his community. When he isn’t spending time with his family, working full time or planning for the next year’s tournament, Andy can be found in schools, churches, hospitals and community centers across the world sharing his inspiring story with others.
“Thinking I wasn’t going to live a long life was really depressing and it seemed so unfair. I blamed my parents, I blamed God, I blamed everyone for this disease,” Andy said. “Today, I look at things differently. I live with CF, but I don’t let it limit what I can do.”
Andy hopes his actions and his words encourage more people to get involved in the search for a cure. He wants to inspire all people — especially those with CF — to reach for their dreams. After all, Andy has reached many of his. He says his biggest accomplishments are marrying his best friend Andrea and having two children through in vitro fertilization.
“My goal is to help cure this disease — not only for me, but for kids who are scared to death because they have CF, and for their parents who are scared to death for them,” Andy said. “I have the ability to help other people, and that’s what I strive to do.”