Cystic fibrosis impacts about 30,000 people across the U.S. every year, and the effects are devastating. The disease works by thickening an individual’s mucus, damaging the lungs, digestive system, and other organs, making it difficult to breathe and fight off infections. At one time, a CF diagnosis in childhood meant the patient likely wouldn’t live through elementary school. In fact, it wasn’t until the year 2000 that the median life expectancy for a CF patient reached beyond 30 years of age.
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is working to change all of this by leading the way in research, medical treatment, and connecting patients together through an invaluable support network. As the Director of Development for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, Laura McCurdy’s primary focus is keeping the Foundation’s coffers full through strategic fundraising.
Although CF is rare, much of McCurdy’s life has been shaped by the disease. “I had a friend in high school who had CF. Unfortunately, at the time, having CF severely shortened your lifespan, and she didn’t make it much further than her 20s.” Today, another close family friend works hard to manage his CF symptoms on a daily basis. It’s these connections—as well as her passion for health-focused nonprofits—that inspired Laura to join the Foundation two years ago.
McCurdy’s biggest focus is the Foundation’s 50 Finest program, a fundraising effort that connects some of the region’s brightest young professionals in an aggressive months-long endeavor (and a program Mitch Dugan participated in back in 2007). The 50 Finest program works by joining a select crew of 50 of the region’s brightest young professionals. Once assembled, the Foundation trains them on numerous valuable skills, including public speaking, networking, and fundraising.
The foundation even puts the 50 Finest in touch with individual patients so they can hear true stories behind the disease they’re fighting against. “We’ve introduced assigning the honorees to a CF family,” says McCurdy. “The family will host a group of five honorees to get to know them and see what their life is like. The idea is to help them develop a relationship with that family. I think this is one of the reasons many of the honorees stay involved to support CFF because of the experience they get from the families.”
Rounding out their development is a mentor who is dedicated to helping them reach their goals. “The mentors are usually people who have already gone through the program,” says McCurdy. “Each mentor is there both to answer questions along the way and also as a resource for generating contacts or navigating their first fundraiser.”
Once training is complete, the Foundation helps members of the 50 Finest set their own fundraising goals, with a minimum of $5,000. With their goal set, the group uses their hard-earned skills from March through August to raise funds for the Foundation. Since the program was founded nearly 24 years ago, the Western Pennsylvania chapter has raised an estimated $6 million, with approximately $400,000 coming in each of the last few years. All of these funds are funneled into research, medical treatment at regional facilities, and networking support groups for CF patients.
Thanks to the 50 Finest program, the Foundation is able to give back twice: Once in developing young professionals, and again in using the funds raised to improve the quality of life for CF patients—and ultimately work closer to a cure.
In addition to coordinating the 50 Finest in their fundraising efforts, McCurdy also spearheads the annual gala held in honor of these young professionals and their ambassadorship to CFF. The gala features speakers, food, and entertainment to celebrate another year of successful fundraising. The next gala is on August 17. If you’d like to attend the upcoming gala, you can purchase tickets here.
At Dugan and Associates, we believe it's important to give back to the community. That's why we were ecstatic when we were nominated to join the 50 Finest back in 2007:
We commend the work of nonprofits to improve the lives of others and to elevate the greater Pittsburgh community. If you’d like to learn more about our community involvement, or if you’d like to discuss our legal work, contact us.