Lea Marie Faraone Named 2020 Michael Brennan Courage Award Honoree by the Boomer Esiason Foundation

Baltimore, Maryland – The Boomer Esiason Foundation (BEF), the organization working to raise money, awareness, and support for the cystic fibrosis (CF) community, announced that Lea Marie Faraone is a co-recipient of their 2020 Michael Brennan Courage Award. Faraone, who passed away from complications with CF in December 2018, was honored along with Tiffany Rich, another CF patient. Lea and Tiffany co-founded “Salty Cysters,” an online initiative that has reached thousands of people with awareness and unified those in the cystic fibrosis community. BEF announced the award on May 13 during National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. The organization released a short film about Lea and Tiffany’s relationship, as well as the creation and growth of Salty Cysters. The film can be viewed on the BEF YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/d_C8z5GR2TQ

After expanding quickly because of their sincerity, honesty, and openness about dealing with their disease, the Salty Cysters became on the radar of Gunnar Esiason on a professional level. Esiason knew their brand of relatability would be a perfect fit for a podcast at the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Lea and Tiffany began recording the ‘Breathe In Podcast’ with Gunnar, and the three received a positive reaction within the CF community. As a result, the podcast rose to the top-200 health podcasts chart on iTunes. "Lea and Tiffany's friendship embodies the spirit of the Michael Brennan Courage Award, said Gunnar Esiason. “I cannot think of a pair more deserving of this honor. Their friendship continues to inspire me.” Esiason added, “I miss Lea dearly and hope that we can continue to let the world know the impact she had on not only my life, but also the broader cystic fibrosis community - this video is a small part of that mission." Lea worked as an infusion nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland and was a 2014 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She was passionate about advocacy work, particularly for those battling cystic fibrosis and chronic illnesses.

Lea volunteered and worked with the Maryland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where she served as a national ambassador for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Great Strides Campaign. “On behalf of Lea, we want to thank everyone at the Boomer Esiason Foundation for this honor,” said Laura O’Donnell-Faraone, Lea’s mother and co-founder of the Lea Marie Faraone Foundation. “This prestigious honor that has recognized many amazing people showcases the positive impact Lea had and how her legacy continues to inspire those affected by CF and chronic illness.”

Salty Cysters continues to unify and benefit the CF community. Last year the Salty Cysters Great Strides National Team, including 32 teams participating in Great Strides events in 25 states, raised close to $83,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The Salty Cysters National Team has already grown its participating teams in 2020 with 37 teams in 32 states currently participating in the virtual Great Strides walk on June 5. Their goal is to have teams in all 50 states. People who are interested in joining or starting a Salty Cysters team can contact the Lea Marie Faraone Foundation at [email protected]

In December 2018, the Faraone family launched the Lea Marie Faraone Foundation (LMFF) after Lea’s passing. Lea felt strongly that since all individuals fighting chronic illness might not see a cure in their lifetime, there should be work done to help their quality of life now. LMFF strives to carry out this mission while keeping the memory of Lea alive in its work.

The Michael Brennan Courage Award is given annually in memory of the late intern and close friend of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, Michael Brennan, who, despite having cystic fibrosis, lived life to the fullest. With it, BEF honors those living with CF who overcome adversity, demonstrate courage in the face of their disease, and make an outstanding difference in the CF community by setting a positive example.

About the Boomer Esiason Foundation In 1993, Gunnar Esiason – son of former NFL MVP quarterback Boomer Esiason – was diagnosed with the chronic illness, cystic fibrosis. In light of the diagnosis, Boomer and his wife Cheryl founded the Boomer Esiason Foundation to raise funds and awareness for the cystic fibrosis community. The Foundation has raised over $145 million to date. To learn more, visit esiason.org.

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