Small but mighty. I’ve heard a lot of people describe the CF community this way. It’s crazy to think that a community fighting for a cure for 105,000 people can have such a big impact. I always tend to amaze people when I say that since getting involved with the CF Foundation, I’ve witnessed major moments like the average life expectancy reaching over 50 or the introduction of Trikafta®.
I think the small but mighty message resonates with me because there was a point in time where my involvement with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was exactly that. We started doing Great Strides to support my cousin, Charlie, when I was 11. I always strived to raise just enough money to get a t-shirt every year. I thought that as a kid, that was all I could really do. Until I learned that wasn’t true.
During my junior year of high school, I had an opportunity to do something bigger. I coordinated a penny wars fundraiser in many of my school’s classrooms. After a two-week run, I realized that I had raised over $1,000 to donate. There I was, just turned 17, rolling coins to give the bank the largest sum of money I had ever had my hands on. The feeling of doing something so impactful inspired me to continue the fundraiser for my senior year as well, producing a similar result. I was small, and though I may not have known it at the time, the impact I had was mighty.
Then, I started college three hours away from my hometown. I knew that Ohio State would bring me lots of new opportunities, but I worried that my connection to CF would be lost in the transition. Before even starting school, I already knew every student organization I wanted to join, but on one final search on our school’s website I decided to type in the words ‘cystic fibrosis’. That search changed my life forever because it brought me to Breathe Hope.
Breathe Hope is an organization at Ohio State that partners with the Central Ohio Chapter of the CF Foundation and focuses on volunteering, advocacy, fundraising, and community service. I got involved with their fundraising committee and established a group-hosted open mic night as a fundraiser. Through this committee I got close with the then-treasurer, Danyelle, who ultimately supported me to run for treasurer the following year.
As Danyelle graduated and I stepped into my new role, the world had other plans: the pandemic began. Campus was essentially shut down, but we tried our hardest to make sure that Breathe Hope wasn’t. Even when it meant driving to people’s houses and dorms to deliver roses on Valentine’s Day (one of our yearly fundraisers) or sitting in our rooms phone banking, we persevered. Our group of fewer than 10 people raised over $1,000 without meeting in person a single time. We were small, but we were mighty.
Through this time, I also made it my personal goal to get more involved with CF, which was made possible by many of the doors Breathe Hope opened for me. I started working on the Brewer’s Ball campaign in Columbus for two years, which allowed me to see an event turned virtual, turned back to in-person. I also was among the first participants of the Tomorrow’s Leaders College Program, which is how I learned about joining the Planning Committee for 2021 (and later 2022 as well).
I had never realized that I had a CF story. In my mind, I was just a volunteer who raised money sometimes. Until suddenly, there I was in 2021, talking with Emma Griffith (another student member of the Planning Committee) for 45 minutes about all the ways we had been involved with fundraising and advocacy. Almost 100 college students were online to listen to my advice about how to get involved with the CF Foundation.
This good cause — that still felt like just a hobby to me — was now an inspiration for other people my age. For the first time, I felt as though my impact could actually be mighty.
Now, here I am starting the next chapter of my life. At first, I was worried that being in the real world instead of college would make me lose that connection again, but that worry quickly faded. I now live, coincidentally, 20 minutes away from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s national office and am excited to soon be joining the Metro DC Chapter. Though I have aged out of the Tomorrow’s Leaders College Program, I am happy to now be joining Tomorrow’s Leaders.
I see two morals to this story. The first is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what your level of involvement is. There are so many ways to get involved with volunteering, whether that’s working with your local chapter or raising money or advocating on your own. Even if it is small, the impact you make will go a long way. The second is that wherever you go, you’ll find a CF community. I’ve done some work on my own, but ultimately most of my impact has been enhanced by the community around me. Regardless of your age or where you are, I promise that even when you feel small, the impact you make will be mighty.