Patient Receives 500th Exercise Grant from Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation

The Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation celebrated its 500th recreation grant at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute on Monday. The foundation is a non-profit that provides grants to Cystic Fibrosis patients to encourage exercise-based activities that benefit lung function, and this week it honored a patient treated by specialists at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects the digestive system but predominantly the lungs, on which it has a chronic, progressive and limiting effect. Research has shown that exercise slows the decline in lung function and can help with digestive issues.

Award recipient Yamelys Gonzalez, 24, of Pembroke Pines, lives every day facing the struggles of CF. Exercise is a critical part of her ability to fight the disease not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. In June Gonzalez was awarded a Cystic Fibrosis Lifestyle Foundation (CFLF) Recreation Grant to help her afford a gym membership. The membership enables her to use exercise as one of her treatments to maintain her lung function.

CFLF recognized Gonzalez and her achievements during the presentation at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute, where Gonzalez and CFLF founder Brian Callanan are patients. A short video on the life of Gonzalez was premiered, and she was recognized by Callanan for her ongoing effort to live stronger and longer with CF.

“I found out about the recreation grants through a Facebook forum and immediately went ahead and applied,” said Gonzalez. “When I found out I was the 500th recipient, I was actually in the hospital and having a very bad day. Needless to say, the news turned around my day. I’m very grateful.”

“Cystic fibrosis is a life threatening disease that requires multiple daily medications,” said Andrew Colin, M.D., Co-Director of the Pediatric Cystic Fibrosis Program and Director of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonary at the Miller School, “but exercise should be viewed as the one crucial medication that can be viewed as fun.”

“When I started the CF Recreation Grant program, I wanted to help people with CF be able to improve their own lives,” said Callanan, who also has CF. “I knew that exercise and an active lifestyle had contributed greatly to my thriving with Cystic Fibrosis, and wanted others to benefit in the same way. Yamelys is a perfect example of the impact we strive for. Through this award, we have seen her drastically change not only physically, but in how she views her CF with greater pride and empowerment. Seeing that change, and knowing how it may affect the rest of her life is a reward that is greater than anything else. It inspires me to keep this program going strong and help many others like Yamelys.”

Callanan started CFLF after bicycling from Canada to Key West in 2006. He continued raising funds for the CF community and then began providing financial assistance through recreation grants distributed by the newly created CFLF.

In 2013, the organization relocated its headquarters from Vermont to Miami Beach as Callanan pursued the known benefit of salt water clearing airway congestion. Since the program began in 2007, more than $320,000 has been provided nationally to more than 600 patients for direct assistance with activity-related costs.

Only a few decades ago, CF patients were not expected to reach their 10th birthday. Today, the 30,000 U.S. patients like Gonzalez who have CF are likely to live into their 40s and beyond. While there is currently no cure for the fatal disease, exciting medical advancements, along with patient support programs like CFLF Recreation Grants, enable patients to continually see a longer and brighter future.

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