Meet Lea Faraone and Willem Wery, our amazing 2017 Great Strides Ambassadors! The Foundation sat down with each ambassador and got to know a bit more about them, why they stride for CF, and what they love about life. Here are their answers:
List three words your friends would use to describe you.
Willem: Just three? How about a few? Kind, thoughtful, smart, driven, and humorous.
Lea: I had to take a poll from a good 20 friends for this one, but the top words I got the most were motivated, driven, compassionate, and hilarious.
Why do you stride for CF?
Willem: I stride for CF because I have CF. After years of not being involved with the CF community and fundraising, I stride with my team, the Wery Walkers, to raise money to support the research and community of CF patients who are living with this disease.
Lea: When I started striding for CF in 2008, it was in hope of getting one step closer to a cure so that I could one day live a life free of CF. However, as I started to share my story, so many people with CF reached out to me and told me their stories, and I can now honestly say they are the reason I stride. These people are not just some of my best friends, they are the most kindhearted, inspiring, and resilient people I have ever known. They deserve to live a life free of constant breathing treatments, hospital stays, and spending almost every second they have thinking about breathing.
If you had one magical power, what would it be?
Willem: The power to cure CF. But if you mean “super power,” I'd probably want the ability to fly. Traveling without being in an airplane (and its germs) or getting stuck in traffic jams would be great.
Lea: I wish I could snap my fingers and be anywhere in a matter of seconds! Could you imagine how much easier it would be to travel with CF with all of our treatments if we teleported?
What made you want to be a Great Strides Ambassador?
Willem: For most of my life I tried to keep my diagnosis a secret and did not engage with fundraising, or the CF community. At 57, I want to help raise money to support others with CF. I want to share my story and inspire hope for parents of children with CF, and be an example of an adult with CF who has lived a full life -- gone to college, had a career, gotten married, raised a family, and now, retired [and I have] a granddaughter.
Lea: After an extremely rough time with my health, I decided to get more involved with the Foundation and Great Strides to do everything I possibly could to help find a cure. I am honored and thankful to be given this platform to spread awareness about CF and share my story with the CF community.
Who would you like to play you in a movie?
Willem: Jimmy Fallon or Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Jimmy is super talented, smart, funny, and nice. “The Rock” is good-looking, big and strong, with a good sense of humor.
Lea: Jennifer Lawrence, because she is strong, down-to-earth, and absolutely hilarious, which I like to believe sums me up in a nutshell.
What is one thing you can't live without?
Willem: My best friend, my love, my wife -- Kathy. She's my partner, mother of my kids, my social director, and lately, she's taken on more aspects of my health support as my caretaker and advocate.
Lea: I absolutely could not live without my family. They are my best friends and my biggest supporters in life. I couldn't imagine my life without them.
What's the best way to fundraise for Great Strides?
Willem: I fundraise by leveraging my network of friends, family, and business colleagues. Personally, I send a lot of emails, and I'm planning to use the Great Strides tools this year.
Lea: I've learned the best way to fundraise is by being honest and telling your story, especially through social media. Sharing your story, or the story of a loved one with CF, on social media channels is one of the fastest ways to reach a large audience, give a human face to this disease, and inspire people to donate.
Why do you love Great Strides?
Willem: Great Strides is a way for me to fundraise and support the search for a cure for the most important health issue that I, and many others, face. It's fun to build a walking team and do the walk together.
Lea: I love Great Strides because it offers so much hope for not only my future, but for the future of all of us with CF, our families, friends, and supporters in this community. Great Strides is a key contributor in helping to find a cure.
December 2018 -- We were deeply saddened to learn of Lea’s passing. Lea was involved with the CF Foundation in many capacities. She served as a 2017 national Great Strides ambassador, co-chaired her local chapter's Great Strides walk, and shared her heart to the CF community through the CF Community Blog. She will be missed by many.