Mighty Magners: Finding Hope for Kids with Cystic Fibrosis

When Casey and Jackie Magner’s son John was a toddler, they discovered he had cystic fibrosis.

This life-threatening genetic disease causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas.

The Winnetka family immediately tested their three other children, and discovered that their youngest, Matthew, also had the disease.

Today, John is 9 and Matthew is 6, and both are otherwise normal, active kids. Behind the scenes, they take some 25 pills daily, wear a vest that vibrates to loosen mucus in their chests, and use a nebulizer.

“They might get winded or dehydrated when they’re playing hockey or soccer or swimming,” says Casey. “But we are lucky. They have been really healthy. They can live normal lives.”

With the diagnosis, the Magners immediately got involved in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which will be one of the benefitting charities of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show’s First Look for Charity on Feb. 9 at McCormick Place.

After First Look, the Magners will start gearing up for the North Shore Great Strides Walk, a one-mile fun walk through Gillson Park on May 20. Their team, the Mighty Magners, has raised over $1 million in six years, and has ranked as the #1 team in Illinois.

“We’re lucky to have large families and large groups of friends,” Casey says. “We ask them to either think of us or raise awareness where they live or come to the walk or contribute. Last May, we raised $100,000.”

Some 90 percent of that money is going directly to research the disease, and the research is succeeding in lengthening the median predicted age of survival, according to the CFF. In 1955, children with cystic fibrosis were not expected to live long enough to attend grade school. Today, an increasing number of people with the disease are living into adulthood and leading healthier lives that include careers, marriage and families of their own.

“For so long a lot of the drugs were basically dealing with the symptoms and trying to control them,” Jackie says. “Now a lot of the science is working on correcting the defect in the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. It’s remarkable!”

To purchase First Look for Charity tickets, go to www.chicagoautoshow.com/firstlook. Tickets are $250 each, and you can choose from 18 charities, including Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, to receive your donation.