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The Social Distance Squad: Young People With Cystic Fibrosis Rally to Help Teens Live Their Best Lives During and After COVID-19 Lockdowns

July 14, 2020

As lifelong experts in social distancing, young people with CF help others cope with COVID-19 restrictions

The Social Distance Squad: Young People With Cystic Fibrosis


“People with CF have to stay six feet apart as they can spread dangerous germs and bacteria to one another. Now in the era of COVID-19 we are all being taught this measurement,” said Claire’s Place Foundation Executive Director Melissa Yeager. “We want to bring their expertise to the public.”

Leading cystic fibrosis (CF) nonprofits Claire’s Place Foundation, Piper’s Angels, The Bonnell Foundation, Attain Health, and the Boomer Esiason Foundation are pleased to announce The Social Distance Squad, a special program led by kids, teens, and young adults with CF who have been social distancing their entire lives due to this genetic disorder. These young experts have banded together to share their lockdown tips, wisdom, and support through social media, learning institutions, and one-on-one settings with kids across the country who have been struggling with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the need to implement social distancing measures has hit teens especially hard. They have been cut off from their social circles during the formative years of their development, missed out on key events, and have been left searching for guidance on how to be social while social distancing. To assist teens during COVID-19, leading CF foundations including Claire’s Place Foundation (Los Angeles, CA), Piper’s Angels (Jupiter, FL), the Bonnell Foundation (Detroit, MI), Attain Health (Red Lodge, MT), and the Boomer Esiason Foundation (New York, NY) have joined forces to launch The Social Distance Squad. AREA 23, an FCB Health Network company, created the unifying platform for the organizations and are working with young people with CF to share encouraging, inspiring and informative stories and tips across a variety of channels.

The young people with CF in The Social Distance Squad are serving as thought-leaders and influencers on all matters related to quarantine and social distancing, focusing on topics like how to stay positive, healthy, strong, and connected during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond.

Since early spring, the Social Distance Squad has reached teens through limited channels, and then expanded. Originally, they partnered with teachers and made appearances via Zoom and other online platforms in virtual school classrooms across the country. As the program continued, they’ve been creating and sharing lessons on staying healthy and happy on Instagram, YouTube, and Tik Tok. And now, with the introduction of, teens can sign up for one-on-one sessions with Squad members, to get advice or support on how to navigate these unprecedented times.

“People with CF have to stay six feet apart as they can spread dangerous germs and bacteria to one another. Now in the era of COVID-19 we are all being taught this critical measurement when it comes to spreading germs,” said Claire’s Place Foundation Executive Director Melissa Yeager. “We want to bring the CF community’s expertise on distancing to the greater public, particularly teens, to help them navigate through this challenging time. Teens need to know that although they are physically distant from each other, they don’t have to be socially distant. Our young CFers can teach teens how to stay connected to family and friends while being safe.”

In addition to helping young people cope with the newfound challenges of social distancing, the initiative serves to raise awareness and increase understanding among the general public of the strength, compassion, and positivity of the CF community.

“This pandemic has given me the opportunity to put to use a skill I have always had and something I never thought anyone would ever truly understand, and to share that with others,” says Leah Schwanke, a senior member and mentor of The Social Distance Squad, who virtually visits junior high classrooms. “To be able to spread my knowledge and lifelong experiences of social distancing with teens and young adults through a message in their classrooms has been tremendously impactful for both me and the students. I hope my lockdown lesson can show teens in schools that you can live a purposeful and happy life while maintaining social distance precautions.”

“It might be tough,” Leah said, “but young people need to know that the CF community has been doing this for years. And if we can do it and stay ourselves, they can, too.”

About Claire’s Place Foundation, Inc.
Claire’s Place Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing support to children and families affected by cystic fibrosis (CF). Claire’s Place Foundation is named in honor of Claire Wineland who lived with CF her entire life and passed away at the age of 21. Claire was an activist, author, TEDx Speaker, social media star and received numerous awards. Claire’s foundation was a way for her to assure that others living with CF enjoyed the same hope, strength and joy that she enjoyed. Recipient of Los Angeles Business Journal’s “Small Nonprofit of the Year,” the foundation provides grants to families affected by CF, offering both emotional and financial support. Today, Claire’s Place Foundation continues to carry on Claire’s legacy. For more information and to make a donation, please visit

About Piper’s Angels Foundation
Piper’s Angels Foundation’s mission is to support and enhance the lives of families with cystic fibrosis through grassroots advocacy, raising awareness through education, offering life-expanding activities, providing urgent financial support, and funding critical research.

Our vision for Piper’s Angels is to provide the most innovative social services focused on advocacy, and rallying of our CF community. These tools serve to bring forth compassion and love to dissolve the isolating barriers of this disease, and through empowering each member of the CF community, we manifest a brighter future for all.

Recipient of both the Nonprofit Executive of the Year award in 2019, and Nonprofit People’s Choice award in Palm Beach county in 2019. Piper’s Angels Foundation is the producer of the world-famous Crossing For Cystic Fibrosis, an international paddle challenge from the Bahamas to Florida.

Piper is our inspiration and guiding light. By empowering her, we hope to lift the hearts of others.

For more information, please go to:

About The Bonnell Foundation
Our mission is to give emotional and/or financial support to parents who have a loved one with cystic fibrosis. Our hope is one day no CF parent will experience the pain of losing a child to this disease. The Bonnell Foundation came to be after Laura Bonnell had two daughters with CF, Molly and Emily, and realized parents needed support.

The purpose of The Bonnell Foundation is to provide tools to navigate the difficulties of living with CF. We strive to connect families with resources through their CF journey. The Bonnell Foundation offers college scholarships to those affected by CF, financial assistance and lung transplant grants. We hope to equip families with a roadmap to guide their way.

For more information, please visit

About Attain Health
Attain Health Foundation was created to work collaboratively with patients and caregivers to become empowered, activated and to establish a mindset of adherence. We partner with individuals living with cystic fibrosis to optimize their health through coaching, education, partnership and peer support.

To learn more, please go to

About The Boomer Esiason Foundation
In 1993, NFL Quarterback, Boomer Esiason, learned that his son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with the incurable genetic condition cystic fibrosis (CF). Boomer and his wife, Cheryl, founded BEF to fight for a cure and for the cystic fibrosis community. Since its start, the Foundation has raised over $145 million, allowing it to support the CF community in the here and now in a number of ways, including financial aid programs, like scholarships and transplant grants, and educational resources, as well as supporting research, CF centers, and lung transplant programs.

Learn more about the Boomer Esiason Foundation at

About AREA 23
AREA 23, an FCB Health Network Company, has been consistently recognized with top advertising industry awards and honors. In 2017, Med Ad News named AREA 23 “Agency of the Year,” “Most Creative Agency” and “Most Admired Agency” — the first time that any agency was able to win the show’s top three awards at once. In 2018, it took home the Med Ad News trifecta yet again and was also recognized as “Agency of the Year.” But AREA 23 didn’t stop there — in 2019, it was awarded “Agency of the Year” for the third consecutive year by Clio Health and took home “Most Admired Agency” for the fourth consecutive year by the Manny Awards. It was also named “Global Agency of the Year” and “Regional Agency of the Year” at the New York Festivals Global Awards. The agency was also recognized as “Large Agency of the Year” at the MM&M Awards and took home Titanium Best in Show. AREA 23′s “See Sound” won the Innovation Grand Prix at Cannes Lions 2019.

Blog & Events

Our Secret Tool? Our Amazing Supporters! WE NEED YOU!

April 23, 2020

Today is #GivingTuesdayNow, a day where the country is coming together to support charities providing assistance during COVID-19 and we need your help!

Please consider starting a peer to peer fundraising campaign today to help us reach our goal. We currently have a very long waiting list of families needing assistance with groceries and supplies, families dealing with cystic fibrosis, which makes them especially vulnerable to this illness. Our CF members and their families have been in quarantine longer than most of America due to the grave effects this virus can have on their already damaged lungs.

Create a campaign by following these steps and win our limited edition custom enamel pin set. Raise $100 and receive 1 pin, raise $200 to receive both

  1. Please go to FUNRAISE.ORG to view our COVID 19 Relief Fund Campaign Page.
  2. Once there, click the “Fundraise” button in the upper right hand side of the page
  3. Choose the option “Fundraise on my own” or “Start a Team” (note: The team setting will require you to create a group effort where each of your team members also become fundraisers. The “fundraise on my own” option makes you the only fundraiser that can request donations from your friends and family)
  4. Create your individual fundraising page by uploading an image of either yourself of one of our COVID 19 Grant Recipients or even a special picture of our Founder, Claire Wineland that you can all of this in the tab “COVID-19 Toolkit” at the top of the Funraise page or HERE
  5. Write a few sentences about why you are fundraising for Claire’s Place Foundation. There are a few mission guidelines to keep in mind when talking about our organization and the vulnerable community we serve. You can find all of that information in the section below titled “Mission, Vision and Values”.
  6. Set a goal! We are giving out our custom, limited edition enamel pins pictured above with Claire Wineland’s image and one of her most famous quotes “Live a Life you are Proud of” as a gift to any of our fabulous fundraisers that reach their goals. (*Minimum goal is $100 and you will earn 1 pin, $200 for 2 pins)
  7. SHARE this fundraiser far and wide! We have been blessed by an enthusiastic group of supporters, especially those who followed our late founder Claire Wineland on many of her social channels. Now is the time to step up and be heard. Let’s get our community some much needed support during this pandemic. Claire would be so proud of all of you!

If you are unable to create your own page, please consider donating here:

Help us strengthen the CF Community when they need us the most!

Blog & Events

Claire’s Birthday Celebration

April 10, 2020
Today would have been Claire’s 23rd birthday,we are celebrating her in 2 ways!
Exclusive Claire Performance of “Galaxies”, her original song!
First, a never before released video of her singing her original song “Galaxies” when she was 15 years old. Pieces of this song were in the soundtrack of her YouTube Originals Claire | The Documentary released last year and we have had many people ask for the entire song.
We love that people are doing #quarantineconcerts right now during this coronavirus pandemic so we thought it would be a fun way to participate. Hope you enjoy! You can go to her YouTube channel to view the lyrics as well.
Join us for Virtual Birthday Cake!
Secondly, we are hosting a “virtual birthday party” for her over the next few weeks where you can participate by purchasing a slice of cake, ice cream, balloons and even host your own party in her honor!You can find all the details about this virtual celebration by clicking below or going to Here
Blog & Events


March 27, 2020

Many of the CF individuals and their families we serve are already living dangerously close to the poverty line, often with only one income earner in the home or living on SSDI if a young adult struggling with extensive health issues and trying to support themselves.

The Emergency COVID-19 Fund will address the need in our CF community to cover costs of food insecurity, extensive medical and prescription drug co-pays during this pandemic due to isolation or loss of income.

  • If you are an individual with CF or a caregiver in this situation, please forward this page to your hospital worker and request that they refer you directly through the submission button below.
  • This emergency cache of funds is limited to providing Visa gift cards to individuals with CF or their caregivers if food/medication availability issues arise due to lack of finances for the next month that are caused by the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The program will be available starting on 3/20 and will continue depending on funds available. If you are a supporter of our mission and have the means, please make even a small donation here to help us rise to this occasion.
  • A hospital professional worker must submit a referral describing the financial need and diagnosis. This includes Social Workers, Doctors and Nurses.
  • Patient or dependent must have a confirmed cystic fibrosis diagnosis
    Once referral is approved, an application link will be sent to the patient at the email address provided in the referral.
  • This fund will not cover mortgage, rent, bills, etc. If the patient has had a 14 consecutive day hospital stay in the last calendar year and needs assistance with those expenses, please visit our Extended Hospital Stay Grant program for more information.


Blog & Events

A Message from our Chairman

March 27, 2020

Hello to our lovely Claire’s Place Foundation Family,

Slowly, we are all adjusting to the challenges of the new normal. Hopefully, now, we have stocked up on toilet paper, mastered Zoom meetings and have reached out to our loved ones.

So, now it’s time to do the real work; the work that makes you proud of your life. Now, it’s time to take action. Now it’s time to move forward, to protect and support our precious community.

As many of you know, COVID-19 attacks the lungs; which let’s face it, just plain sucks for the CF community. This puts us smack dab in the middle of the folks who are at the highest risk for this virus to wrack dire consequences.

Let’s do everything in our power to shelter the most vulnerable.

We announced a new program, the Emergency COVID 19 Fund, on March 20th to provide a little grocery money to families living with CF who have a severe financial need. We had no idea how many of our CF families need help this month with keeping food on the table while waiting for unemployment, government assistance or for their jobs to resume. Well vetted requests for assistance come in faster than donations. And, believe me, you all have been so generous. Thank you. Thank YOU!

Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of this pandemic and the requests for assistance continue to pour in. Not only do we need donations to assist with this emergency fund, we need even more donations for the extended hospital stay grant program as more CFers begin to require extended hospital stays as a result of exposure to this virus.

Normally, a charity would just do a fundraiser event, where we could not only fundraise but celebrate and honor our supporters. We had a few planned for this year but we cannot in good conscious put our community at risk by bringing folks together anytime soon. 

We are in challenging times. We have never needed our donors and supporters more. But, lucky us, we know you.

I am sure with your kindness and your generosity, we will move forward together. In what could have been our darkest days, we will all be proud of what we accomplished together.

“I’m not stuck in this belief that challenges are given to us to hold us back. I am lifted up by the belief that challenges are here to help us move forward“~ Claire Wineland, TEDxMalibu

With a heart full of gratitude,
Laura McHolm, Chairman of the Board

What you can do to help:

  1. Donate to our relief fund
  2. Find out if your employer will match your donation
  3. Start a peer to peer individual or team campaign page by visiting the link here and click the “Fundraise” button in the upper right
  4. Share about our relief fund with friends, family and on social media