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Western New York Gala Honors Volunteers

March 14, 2007

 Western NY Breath of Life Gala
Honored with the "Katie's Courage Award," Katherine Russell (with sister Rachael and mother Carolyn) signs her recently published book for local fans. 
The date was Friday, February 9, 2007, the time, 6:30 p.m. The elegant, flower-scented room at Salvatore’s Italian Garden in Depew, N.Y., was awash in rose petals and softly lit by hundreds of glowing votive candles. People came out, 250 strong, to dance to the music of the Lakeside Blues Band and to honor volunteers who have made a difference in the life of those with cystic fibrosis at the Western New York Chapter’sBreath of Life Gala Presented by West Herr.

Throughout dinner, photographs of local CF individuals were projected onto a screen as a strong reminder of those who directly benefit from the guests’ support of the CF Foundation. These same photographs and the name of the individual adorned guests’ gift bags containing home-baked cookies and tied closed with ribbon and a message that read: “Thank you for adding tomorrows every day to my life.”

The heart of the evening, however, was the award presentations honoring the chapter’s outstanding volunteers. The Nichols School community received the “Commitment to Cure Award,” for their creative efforts to raise funds and awareness for the disease, while Katherine Russell, a 16-year-old teen with CF, received “Katie’s Courage Award,” given in memory of Katie Ozog, a former Western New York Chapter employee who lost her 22-year battle with CF in 2003.

In choosing Russell, the chapter honored a passionate young person whose zest for life counters every stereotype: she swims competitively, sails, wake boards and snow boards, as well as serves on the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo CF Advisory Panel. She has also recently published a book “With Every Breath: Stories by and about People Living with Cystic Fibrosis.”

After accepting the award Russell said, “I was born with a disease. I couldn’t prevent that, but I consider myself blessed; CF has made me a stronger person.”

By the end of the evening, more than $60,000 had been raised: the result of months of planning by a core group of volunteers including co-chairs Jessica Schimert and Tracy Smith and organizers Sandy Faltyn, Kelly Schubert, Uli McDonald, Debbie Kowalski, and Michele McClintock, a local TV reporter who also graciously acted as the evening’s emcee. Corporate sponsors West Herr and M&T Securities donated generously to make the event a success.


The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is an accredited charity of the Better Business Bureau.