Local Non-profits

A beautiful sunset over Sleeping Bear Bay and Point.
Sleeping Bear point in Leelanau County, a half hour from downtown Traverse City, Michigan. Photo by Holland Weekly.

Friends and Family of Cystic Fibrosis

By Andrew Koop
December 13, 2018

What is Cystic Fibrosis (CF)? Many people have heard about it but not many know much about it. If you look at the medical definition, it is a progressive, genetic disease that affects the lungs, pancreas, digestive system, and other organs. It thickens mucus and other fluids in the body that clog the airways in your lungs and prevent other organs from functioning the way they should. This leads to infections in the lungs and life-threatening damage.

There’s much to cystic fibrosis beyond the medical. When CF patients experience complications, they frequently end up in the hospital for weeks, sometimes months. It takes an incredible physical, emotional, and financial burden on everyone involved. Until only a few years ago, CF was a disease mostly found in children. With improvements in medical technology, the number of adults living with CF has finally surpassed children. Even with these improvements, the average lifespan for someone with CF is still only 37 years.

This is where Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis (FFCF) comes in. The FFCF is a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit and volunteer run organization dedicated to helping children and adults affected with cystic fibrosis. The foundation raises money to help with costs and eases the burden on families affected by cystic fibrosis. The foundation uses these funds for the following:

– Purchase and deliver care packages for kids and young adults in the hospital,

– Help fund medical equipment and procedures not covered by insurance, e.g. lung transplants,

– Help cover rent, utilities, gym memberships, and other expenses.

One of the most important values of the organization is that all funds stay and support families here in West Michigan. West Michigan is unique, having a specialized care facility at the DeVos Children’s Hospital, with an adult clinic recently opening as well. The children’s center works with over 150 kids with the adult center serving over 165.

The FFCF is a community of about 50 volunteers, including patients, friends, family, and others who want to give back and help improve the lives of CF patients. The foundation has become a support system and backbone for CF patients as well as their friends and families to help them through the good times and the bad. We all work together because we are stronger as one.

A close friend asked me if I wanted to be a part of the FFCF community and it has proven to be an amazing opportunity. Giving back to my community, especially children, has always been one of my greatest joys in life. It’s hard to describe what life is like for kids with CF. It’s not uncommon for them to be in the hospital for weeks at a time. Sometimes they can’t go outside and play or go to school. Those suffering from CF can’t experience life in a way most people take for granted. Walking into a hospital with gifts and seeing a child forget about their problems, if even for a moment, is exactly what the foundation was started for. Those are the special moments that you remember for the rest of your life.

Every March for the past 22 years, Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis hosts Bid for Bachelors and Bachelorettes, a black-tie gala at the JW Marriot in Grand Rapids. This year 35 bachelors and bachelorettes have volunteered to put together bid packages. Each bachelor or bachelorette puts together a date package, many times with a fun theme. These packages can include local beer and wine tours, sporting event packages, or all-inclusive trips to Traverse City, Chicago, or even Hawaii! In previous years, some packages have been as big as a 4 pack of tickets, lodging, and food for the Coachella Valley Music Festival in Indio, California. Each bid is auctioned off to raise the money needed to keep FFCF running. It is a night full of song, dance, and tons of fun.

This year, I have volunteered to be one of the bachelors. I am putting together a bid package of my own; as an outdoorsman, I think being able to get outside and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer is incredibly important. The UP is one of my favorite places and I’ve decided to build my bid package around it. I am planning a weekend getaway that will include kayaking Pictured Rocks along with a hotel and dinner stay in Munising as well as a day of relaxation, dinner, and hotel in Marquette. I am currently raising money towards helping me build the perfect date package.

If you would like to donate to Bid for Bachelors and Bachelorettes, please go to https://one.bidpal.net/bachsupport2019/search/Koop(details:item/19). For more information on Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis, Bid4Bach, or if you’d like to volunteer, please visit www.ffofcf.org.

Andrew Koop was born and raised in Holland, Michigan. Koop currently lives in Grand Rapids, and spends time in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula every chance he gets.