The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's (CFF) Breath of Life Gala is almost here.
This evening of elegance on Nov. 3 includes a cocktail hour, silent and live auctions, a sumptuous dinner and dancing to the live music of Mayday by Midnight. Having outgrown the Marriott's Grand Ballroom, the 2018 Breath of Life Gala will take places at the Statehouse Convention Center's Wally Allen Ballroom.
The CFF will honor Anne and Mike Preston with the Breath of Life Award for their incredible contributions to the foundation and their leadership within the community. Mike serves as the executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Anne works as a broadcast reporter for stations across the country. Since moving to Little Rock in 2015, they've become very active in the CFF's Arkansas chapter. We chatted with the couple about their personal connection to cystic fibrosis and what folks can expect at this year's event.
How did you become involved with the Arkansas chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation?
Anne: We got involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in 2017 immediately after finding out that we are both cystic fibrosis (CF) carriers. It came as a shock to us to learn we both carry the mutated gene as we had no known family history of CF. At the time, we were trying to start a family and this news meant that every child we conceive would have a 25 percent chance of having the progressive, genetic disease. It was a scary time for us.
Through our involvement with the CFF, we have learned about the amazing advancements in treatment options for people with CF and have had a chance to meet several adults with CF who are thriving. It’s given us hope. And we are thrilled to say we are expecting our first child in January of 2019. We do not know if this baby will have CF but we are confident that he (yes, it’s a boy!) will lead a full life either way!
Since becoming involved, what are some of the projects or events that you’ve been proud to be a part of?
Anne: We are humbled to be the CFF's Breath of Life Gala honorees this year. In this role, we have been very active in fundraising efforts for the event on Nov. 3. We formed a committee of some of our closest friends to help us recruit sponsors and sell tables to the event. We feel so fortunate to have had an overwhelming response from sponsors this year with record-breaking advance sales.
We also volunteer our time to the CFF’s other events in any way we can. In August we were the emcees of the Taste of the Finest event at the Statehouse Convention Center, and in May you could find us at the registration table signing everyone in for the CFF Great Strides walk.
How has your personal connection to CF affected your dedication and support of the CFF?
Anne: It was a life-changing moment for us to learn we are both CF carriers. We felt devastated and scared. We wondered how we could be that unlucky. But through a lot of prayer, we realized this also gave us an opportunity to do something positive with this situation we were dealt. We channeled our energy into volunteering with the CFF. Raising money to help develop new treatments for CF is something that gives us hope about the future of managing and hopefully curing this disease. We still don’t know if our son will have CF, but this is now a cause we plan to fight for until CF stands for “cure found.”
Due to record-breaking advance sales, the gala has been moved to the Statehouse Convention Center. What else are you looking forward to with this year’s gala?
Anne: We are excited to share our emotional story at the gala and also hear from our 2018 CF Ambassador about his health journey of living with CF. There will also be a lot of fun things to look forward to that night including a Kendra Scott jewelry pull and a signature drink provided by Roxor Gin. We have some incredible live auction items including an original Gino Hollander painting, a Justin Timberlake concert box seat package, a stunning 18-karat yellow gold and graduated south pearl necklace from Roberson’s Fine Jewelry and a Mississippi quail hunt. We will also have live music from Mayday by Midnight for attendees to dance the night away!
Aside from the Gala, what are some ways folks can get involved with the foundation to support the CFF’s mission?
Anne: There are many ways to get involved with the foundation to support the mission! The Little Rock Great Strides walk is a great way to get the whole family involved helping raise funds and awareness with a celebration walk on May 18, 2019, at the Little Rock Zoo.
A meaningful way for companies to get involved is by honoring one of their top employees through CFF's Finest Program that honors 30 young professionals (ages 25-40) each year who exemplify leadership qualities, are active in volunteer roles and have excelled in the central Arkansas business community. Nominations open November 15 for the 2019 class.
Young professionals ages 21-40 can get involved through the CFF's new leadership development and volunteer program, Tomorrow’s Leaders, to network with other like-minded young professionals while working together towards a cure for CF.
There are also many volunteer opportunities throughout the year for individuals looking to help at CFF events and support the overall mission. Anyone interested can contact the Arkansas chapter office at (501) 371-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the gala or to purchase tickets, head to the CFF's website.