After Jillain Williams of the Kansas City Chapter told me all about 18-year-old CF brother Paul Freeman, I joked that I might need to reevaluate all my life decisions after I speak with him. Jillain's response was, “I'm old enough to be his mother and I want to be him when I grow up.”
To put things into perspective, by the time Paul turned 18, his accomplishments included advocating for key legislation on the Hill, fundraising for Great Strides and launching an annual tennis tournament fundraiser that raised more than $60,000 in its second year.
Volunteering with the CF Foundation was always a part of Paul's life, ever since his younger brother was diagnosed with the disease as an infant. He shared his early childhood memories of attending galas and walks with his parents in an effort to raise more money to help find a cure. This clearly had a great effect on Paul because he made a conscious decision at the tender age of 12 to become actively involved in the CF cause. “Once I started middle school, I felt like it was time for me to do my part,” said Paul.
Paul signed up as a CF Foundation teen advocate, and he continues to serve as an advocate to this day. Our advocacy staff described Paul as a fearless teen, speaking with Congressional members and staff with relative ease. When I shared this with Paul, he seemed genuinely surprised. He told me he didn't think of himself as fearless, he just felt like he had a job to do. Paul made such an impact as a teen advocate, that we now include advice in our Teen Advocacy Day training materials on “how to have a meeting like Paul.”
As he got older, Paul became increasingly involved with the CF Foundation, and started fundraising for Great Strides when he was 14. This year, he was the top strider in the Greater Kansas City walk. He got into this position after he started his own tennis tournament fundraiser last year.
Paul created Serving Up a Cure with a few of his high school friends to combine two of his favorite activities: playing tennis and helping to find a cure for CF. “We wanted to put on an event that other kids my age would want to attend,” Paul said about organizing the tournament. “We wanted to show them that they could get involved in philanthropy too.”
Paul starts college this fall and plans to find new ways to help raise money for CF and share his dedication to volunteering with others. I am excited to hear about what he has in store, and all joking aside, he did make me think twice about how I do my part.