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Proud Cystic-Fibrosis Foundation Doesn't Need Your Charity

AITKIN, MN—Cystic-fibrosis foundation A Dream To Breathe, which has refused to accept more than $250,000 in donations since 2001, announced Monday that it was continuing to make strides in fighting the rare respiratory disorder without any handouts from "self-righteous do-gooders."

Vandercamp has been "embarrassed" by all the support.

"In the past three months alone, thousands of people from all across the country have come out and asked us to take their money, insisting that we need it more than they do," said Development Director Joan Vandercamp in an urgent plea to Americans to take their pity elsewhere. "To you and countless others, we can only say: Who do we look like? The Salvation Army?"

"When we need your help wiping this degenerative disorder that affects 30,000 Americans off the face of the earth, we'll let you know, okay?" she added.

According to Vandercamp, who described her foundation as an independent organization determined to make a difference in the lives of those with cystic fibrosis and not "some pathetic charity case," A Dream To Breathe is perfectly capable of finding a cure for the deadly genetic disease that strikes the lungs and pancreas without anyone else's aid.

"Not that it's any of your concern, but we've been raising plenty of awareness on our own, thank you very much, and we'd really like to keep it that way," said Vandercamp, who added that her foundation already had its hands full identifying the defective protein-producing gene earlier in victims of the disease without others trying to get involved. "We may not be the biggest or the most successful organization of our kind, but we have dignity, and I'll be damned if we let your patronizing donations change that."

Last year, A Dream To Breathe qualified for increased federal funding, but cited its special status as a "fully functional nonprofit organization" as its reason for rejecting the extra money, claiming to have never applied for it in the first place. The foundation then leveled criticism at individuals, whose small donations the organization calls "infuriating."

"There are so many ways you think you can make a difference, but we're telling you right now, please don't," said Special Projects Director Tina Diaz. "After all, we didn't found the A Dream To Breathe Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to be your own little personal cause—we founded it to end cystic fibrosis."

"Why can't you respect the fact that this is between us and the thousands of helpless individuals suffering from this ailment?" she added, saying that she just wants people to look at how much they spend each day on coffee or other unnecessary items, continue spending that amount, and mind their own business.

Other members of the organization said they have had to endure guilt-ridden calls from those wanting to volunteer, and claimed they were irritated by the "shameless show of support" from community groups. As a result, the organization has decided not to hold its annual Great Strides Walk For A Cure this year.

"I can't tell you how it felt last fall to see people from all walks of life show up, decked out in their gaudy 'A Dream To Breathe' T-shirts, making this huge deal about playing some part in the search for a cure," said Operations Coordinator Janet Sturges, who added that she never tells people she works for the foundation for fear of being inundated with offers to help. "The whole thing was almost as humiliating as the time that complete stranger shoved an oversized $25,000 check in my face, right in the middle of a gala fundraiser."

Vandercamp, who said she was "exhausted" by the endless donation requests, claimed that she would rather see scores of cystic-fibrosis sufferers drown in their own lung mucus than have to accept any more patronage.

"If you think it's so important to raise millions of dollars to fund the research necessary to combat this deadly killer, maybe you should go out and start your own foundation," Vandercamp said.

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