Gunnar's diagnosis, the Sports Illustrated article, and the start of the Foundation… 1993 was the beginning of everything.
"I am going to be the biggest enemy that this disease has ever had," Boomer said. "We're going to beat this thing. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we're going to beat it."
Our Most Valuable Player honor started in 1994 when Larry Davis was named the ‘Hero of the Year.’ The award was established to recognize outstanding contributions and to acknowledge those who leave a legacy through their work for BEF and the cystic fibrosis community.
"Children such as Gunnar are chosen to enter into battle at such an early age, not because it is a curse or a punishment by God; they do so because they are here to inspire us. They are here to teach us about life and its frailties, its contingencies, and how precious it is. "
Gunnar H. Esiason Lung and Cystic Fibrosis Center Opening at Cincinnati Children's Hospital
"I pray that your life will be long and filled with happiness. You can always count on me to be by your side and to save that “special spot” just for you."
LA Times Father's Day letter
The Michael Brennan Courage Award was established in the year 2000 to honor a person living with cystic fibrosis who exemplifies the positive qualities of deceased BEF friend and intern, Michael Brennan. These individuals overcome adversity, demonstrate courage in the face of their disease, and make an outstanding difference within their community by setting a positive and healthy example for others with CF.
"As many of you know, our offices were housed within Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. As the events of September 11 unfolded, it became apparent that our Foundation would suffer greatly from the attacks. While we are grateful that our staff was safe that day, we still lost hundreds of friends and supporters. Our friend and board member Tim O'Brien was among them. We know that each of these people would want us to carry on."
Boomer & Cheryl Esiason
The BEF Scholarship Program was created to address a new need in the cystic fibrosis community - people living with CF being able to attend college. Today, the Foundation has awarded over $3 million to students working to achieve their dreams.
Fourteen years after the original Sports Illustrated cover, Boomer and Gunnar recreated the picture and updated everyone on their fight against CF.
Jerry Cahill, BEF CF Ambassador, created Team Boomer in 2007. His goal: provide people a way to support the Foundation and the CF community by participating in challenging athletic events.
In fall 2008, 60 runners participated in the New York City Marathon. Now, 15 years later, Team Boomer athletes continue to compete in marathons, triathlons, and more.
The BEF Young Professionals started in 2008 as a small bar event that raised $12,000. Through the years, the Young Professional Committee was formed and their events have raised over one million dollars.
"Playing in the Empire Challenge is one of my most cherished memories. For me, it was a moment when the work that BEF does comes alive. I remember looking up to the players for my entire childhood and hoping one day to be one of the guys playing. From leading the Long Island team out of the locker room, to when the NYC team came across the line of scrimmage to pat me on the back to the touchdown run, it was a truly magical moment not only for me, but also for my entire family to be there with me."
The inaugural Team Boomer Run to Breathe 10K in Central Park sold out to 10,000 runners.
Kalydeco - CFTR Modulator Breakthrough
In 2012, the cystic fibrosis community saw a medical breakthrough that, for the first time, treated the underlying cause of the condition - not just the symptoms, in about 5% of the population. Kalydeco demonstrated that CFTR could be rescued in people living with cystic fibrosis.
Starting in 1995 under Jack Cassidy's leadership, Cincinnati Bell began supporting BEF in a number of ways including its annual clay shoot event. For over 18 years, their contributions to BEF directly benefited Cincinnati's Children's Hospital and culminated in BEF’s recognition at their Celestial Ball.
On our 25th anniversary, we honored Gunnar Esiason as our Most Valuable Player.
"In no small way has the Trikafta completely changed my life. The first few weeks of being on the drug were some of the most powerful of my life. My lung function seemingly skyrocketed over night, I suddenly felt like I had more energy than an Olympic athlete in the prime of his career, and the deep, watery cough that we all associate with cystic fibrosis seemingly vanished. It’s almost hard to remember what life was like before being on the drug. In those days I was largely living day to day or month to month between needing to use IV’s, trying different antibiotics or enduring abrupt pauses in my life. Trikafta changed everything."
"I often think about the people with cystic fibrosis who came and went before me, the generations of people who never had a chance to experience what we have today. It is largely because of them, and the pain and anguish they lived through, those of us now surviving cystic fibrosis will get a chance to live long, fulfilled lives."
Reflecting on the ways Trikafta changed the course of his life, leading to his engagement.
The Boomer Esiason Foundation funds CF Centers and Programs as part of its mission and will continue to invest in the future of the cystic fibrosis community.
Jim Regan, President & CEO, Digital Federal Credit Union, and BEF board member since 2018, has been an integral partner of the Foundation. The unwavering support of DCU and DCU for Kids has enabled us to directly impact the CF community.
"Graduating from business school demonstrated that there is a future with CF. Having gone from being super sick to finishing my MBA at Dartmouth showed me that it is possible to live successfully with cystic fibrosis well into adulthood. It's my hope that others with cystic fibrosis are now also at a point where they are empowered by our therapeutic advances to pursue their professional and educational goals without cystic fibrosis getting in the way."
“We revealed the top-secret information to our family and friends in a toast to open the wedding. The love we felt last night was the most magical moment I have ever experienced.”
Gunnar & Darcy Esiason’s wedding and special announcement
“Our inspiration. Our motivation. Our miracle.”
Jerry Cahill, longtime BEF ambassador, continues to inspire everyone at BEF and in the CF community after surviving a double lung transplant in 2012 as well as liver and kidney transplants in 2021.