By Laura McAlister
When Emily Schreiber was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age nine, she didn’t despair. Instead, she went to work.
For the past nine years, Emily, a 2011 graduate of Mountain Brook High School and freshman at Furman University, has been raising money for CF research and awareness. In 2005, she even started her own nonprofit foundation, Laps for CF, for the cause.
“I think for me this was really the best coping mechanism,” she said. “I’m a very Type A person. I like to do things and plan things. I just wanted to do what I could to make a difference in the CF community.”
Emily’s fundraising has made a difference. To date, she’s helped raise more than $2.1 million for CF research and awareness.
Her hard work also has her in the running for a national award.
Emily is one of five finalists worldwide for Glamour magazine’s readers’ choice Women of the Year Awards. The awards honor women doing philanthropic work around the world. Past winners include Julia Roberts, Cher and Somali humanitarian Dr. Hawa Abdi.
The awards also honor 21 women under age 25 who are making a difference in their communities. Two of these women will be chosen by readers via online voting at glamour.com through Sept. 23.
Emily, along with four others, is in the running for a readers’ choice award. If selected, she will be invited to the awards ceremony at New York City’s Carnegie Hall and will be featured in the magazine.
She was nominated for the award by Riley McDuff, a fundraiser at Emily’s Laps for CF. In her nomination, Riley mentioned the many fundraisers Emily helped organize to raise money for CF research and awareness, while at the same time coping with the illness.
CF is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. The life expectancy of a CF patient is approximately 37 years old.
For Emily, the diagnosis means taking about 35 pills daily and having at least one lung treatment every day.
“Living with CF is really different for every patient, but it’s definitely a day-to-day thing,” she said. “You can’t take a long weekend from CF.”
Emily didn’t take any time after her diagnosis to start making a difference in the CF community.
Just six weeks after she learned she had CF, she organized her first fundraiser. Since she was a competitive swimmer at the time, she decided to make it a lap swim, with donors pledging money for each lap she swam. The event became an annual one and led to the name of the foundation, Laps for CF, as well as countless other fundraisers.
In addition to the lap swims, the foundation also hosts an annual golf tournament and partnered with BioGuard to host the annual Splash for CF, a national campaign raising awareness for the disease.
One of the newer fundraisers started by Laps for CF’s Junior Board is the upcoming Sips for CF, a wine tasting event set for 6 p.m. Oct. 13 on the rooftop of the Kress Building downtown.
“This has all just been really awesome,” Emily said. “When I first started, my goal was to raise $3,000. It’s just really amazing.”
Emily said it’s great to know that her hard work for CF has earned her a nomination for a national award. But even more important is what’s being done with the money she’s helped raise.
Locally, funds from Laps for CF have allowed Children’s CF Clinic in Birmingham to purchase breathing machines and hire a nurse practitioner and nutritionist.
“The Children’s CF clinic went from being one of the worst to now the top in the nation,” Emily said. “Right now, each year we split up the funds raised to the CF national foundation and CF Hope, which helps families, and the clinics in Birmingham, so we’re giving all over the nation.”
Although Emily is just starting her freshman year at Furman, she remains very involved with Laps for CF, and instead of focusing on her illness, she continues to look to the future. As she said, she’s a Type A personality, which means she does have a plan.
“I have not decided for sure on a major. I am thinking history with a concentration in poverty studies,” Emily said. “Although still undecided, I would love to go to law school and work with broken families and the complex issue of homelessness.”
For more information on Laps for CF or to cast a vote for Emily in Glamour’s Women of the Year Readers’ Choice awards, visit www.lapsforcf.org.