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The History of CNCF

In 1976, two local sisters-in-law Karen and Linda Gagner decided while sitting around a kitchen table, to do something to help find a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. They had already known a lot about the disease. Linda's son, Ed, was 1 year old at the time and had been diagnosed with CF. 


"I said we couldn't sit around and wait for the day a cure would come," Karen said. "We wanted to see the day we would find the cure. We thought 'We can't sit here without doing anything.' So we just set out and did things without any expertise."


The two knew absolutely nothing about raising money to try to find a cure. But, that's what they decided to do.


The very first fundraiser was a plant sale out of Karen's home. It netted $300 for Cystic Fibrosis research. In fact, Karen figures that was their total take for the entire first year. "The people who donated plants probably bought them, too," Karen said with a laugh.


Though frustrated, the duo never gave up. They sold Tupperware, sponsored a dance at Pla-Mor, did several fundraisers at the Speakeasy lounge in the Indian Village Shopping Center, and sold raffle tickets for an old Ford Model A car.


"We even had the nerve to rent the basement of Pershing Auditorium to put on a fun fair," she said about a fundraising kids carnival that flopped. "We didn't have a huge attendance. We made $1,000."


That's when they adopted the name 'Concerned Nebraskans for Cystic Fibrosis'. "We learned about needing a name the people know is reputable," she said. "We knew we needed to get our name in public. People have to know that you're legitimate and that your money is really going to the research center, not to administrative costs."


So the duo, Karen and Linda, became a group, and their cause became something of a family crusade.


The group operated out of Karen's home and started raising a lot more than $300 a year. At one point, it upped its take to about $150,000 a year, mostly for CF research at three different centers - the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the University of Iowa, and a Cincinnati hospital that became involved in Cystic Fibrosis research through pro-football quarterback Boomer Esiason, whose son had the disease.


In addition to funding research, CNCF began sending about 25 kids with Cystic Fibrosis in Nebraska and Iowa to a summer camp, 'Camp Jenney' - all expenses paid. CNCF also provided scholarships to deserving students and gave grants to people afflicted with CF to allow them to open businesses, buy cars for transportation and even purchase computers.


With its grants, CNCF helped a man open a videotaping business in Nebraska City and helped a woman open the Cub Club, a former day care center in Lincoln.


In the 90's, the group had two main fundraisers a year - neither were plant sales. To raise money to pay for the summer camp, the group sold pickle cards at the Speakeasy lounge. "It's an expensive disease," Karen said, explaining why the group paid for the camp. "Medicines are horrendous, many families struggle with the costs."


The second fundraiser each year was a Spring Husker Preview, a banquet organized in the early 1980's that highlighted the previous football season, and took a peak ahead to the next fall's football team. At the 1996 event, Coach Tom Osborne and defensive coordinator Charlie McBride were the banquet's featured guests. About 600 people attended the event which included both a live and silent auction.


Through the years, CNCF has put on many different types of fundraisers.


Today, CNCF holds an annual event, the '65 Roses Benefit'. The benefit consists of live music, a dance, and a silent auction at Pla Mor Ballroom in Lincoln. In 2014, the group completed it's 13th annual 65 Roses Benefit. CNCF continues to provide scholarships to CF patients for post-secondary education and job training programs and grants for other types of expenses that CF patients must incur. With the huge expenses for prescriptions, treatments, doctors and hospital bills, CNCF hopes to continue its support for higher education opportunities for CF patients. 


Although extremely important, fundraising for CF research constitutes only a portion of CNCF activities. CNCF is committed to public education about Cystic Fibrosis to aid in early diagnosis of the disease.


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