2017 Jeannie Peeper Award Winners

Posted July 19, 2017

We are pleased to announce the 2017 Jeannie Peeper Award Winners! The Peeper Awards recognize those who have made exceptional contributions to the worldwide FOP community through their leadership and service in raising FOP awareness, supporting patients and families, and raising funds to support the IFOPA’s vision to cure FOP. This year’s winners join 32 other individuals and groups who have been honored with this award since 2010.

The Jeannie Peeper Awards Committee led by Steve Eichner includes Jeannie Peeper, Gretty Emmerich, Karen Munro, Nancy Sando and Michelle Davis. The committee thanks all of those that made nominations. Of note, current Board members of the IFOPA are not eligible to receive a Jeannie Peeper Award.

Congratulations to the 2017 winners whose gifts of time and talent have made an incredible impact on the FOP community! We’re excited for you to learn more about them through the stories below.

President's Lifetime Leadership Award
Moira Liljesthröm

Moira_2_(3).jpgAfter Moira’s son, Manuel, was diagnosed with FOP in 2001 at 4 years of age, she knew she wanted to join other family's efforts around the world to get a treatment to benefit Manuel and all the people suffering from a disease as devastating as FOP is. The major areas in which she knew she could contribute were research, advocacy and helping to connect FOP patients internationally to build a strong international FOP community.  Since then, her efforts have led to significant developments for the IFOPA and the international FOP community.

Notable among Moira’s many leadership roles are her service on the IFOPA’s Board of Directors from 2011 to 2016, and her incredible work as Founder and President of Fundación FOP, the only FOP national organization in Argentina. 

Though its original vision was to provide FOP resources and advocacy in Argentina, Fundación FOP has since extended its efforts to serve patients and families throughout South and Central America. Moira knows this outreach is critical, since most FOP patients in the region do not have a national organization in their country. Language is another barrier for many families, so Moira took the lead on translating and reviewing translations of IFOPA materials into Spanish, including the FOP Patient Registry.  

Moira explained, “It is important to connect FOP families in different countries. We all work together, and we all have the same goal - we want a treatment for FOP.” 

Moira has personally connected with over 60 families in Central and South America, and has shared important IFOPA resources with them, such as the Quality of L.I.F.E. Awards. 

Moira has also organized two family meetings, and is currently planning the third. The third Latin American FOP meeting will be held August 28-29 of this year, and 26 FOP families will be attending. She has invited patients and families across Central and South America. 

Moira has attended numerous FOP meetings throughout the world, including FOP Italia family meetings and the first FOP Scientific Symposium in Philadelphia in 2011.  

Since joining her voice to the IFOPA’s, Moira has contributed to numerous victories for the organization.  

Through reading the University of Pennsylvania’s Annual Report of the FOP Collaborative Research Project and conversations with Dr. Fred Kaplan, Moira understood one of the key issues for researchers in discovering the FOP gene was identifying multigenerational FOP families. She began to search for these families, and identified a multigenerational family in Korea whom Dr. Kaplan knew but had lost contact with. This family was key in ultimately uncovering the FOP gene. 

Moira joined the IFOPA’s International President’s Council (IPC) when it was started in 2007, and served as Chair from 2011 to 2014.  

“My main goal as IPC Chair was to contribute to building a strong and united international FOP community,” she said. “This led me to establish an annual in-person meeting for all IPC members in conjunction with the annual FOP Italia meeting. I also included Russia as new members of the IPC, and I started the FOP in Numbers project to collect the number of FOP patients in each country, in order to know how many people comprise the international FOP community.”

Moira’s interest in research led her to join the IFOPA’s Research Committee in 2015, a committee she chaired in 2016 and continues to serve on in 2017. In 2014 and 2016, the IFOPA sponsored two FOP Drug Development Forums.

Moira is incredibly thankful to be named the IFOPA’s President’s Lifetime Leadership Award Winner for 2017. Her main hopes for the future are for her son and others living with FOP to have safe and effective treatment options and opportunities to continue to improve their lives.

Thank you, Moira, for the extraordinary leader you have been—and continue to be—in the FOP community.

Outstanding Community Involvement Award
Individual: Amanda Pullano

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“Whenever I make a wish, whether I’m blowing out my birthday candles or throwing a coin into a fountain… every time, I wish for a cure for FOP.” 

Amanda Pullano first learned about FOP when Dr. Fred Kaplan diagnosed her sister, Holly, in 1997 at age 16. Then, in 2000, they attended an IFOPA Family Gathering in Florida and met other FOP patients and families for the first time. 

“I was amazed by the strength and positivity of everyone we met there,” she said. “It was especially helpful to learn about modifications and strategies to make sure Holly could live comfortably and independently.” 

Amanda and her family remained connected with the FOP community in the years following, but this year, they took their involvement to the next level. 

Amanda took the lead in organizing an all-day music festival held at Wild Bills Nostalgia in Middletown, Conn., to raise funds for the IFOPA. Seven popular local bands joined the Physical Freedom Festival lineup, and several FOP patients, including Jasmin Floyd and Holly LaPrade, spoke about FOP at the event. Additionally, Rory Otto spoke about developments in FOP research. This first-time event raised more than $45,000.  

“The festival was a labor of love,” Amanda said. “It wouldn’t have happened without my sister, mom, and everyone on my committee. 

“I’m so honored to receive this award, and I’m thankful for all the IFOPA has done for my family. We’re so close to finding a cure, and I know we will continue to fight until we do.” 

The IFOPA is grateful to Amanda for her efforts in organizing such an exceptional event.

Outstanding Community Involvement Award
Individual: Kim Weston

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Moments after Kim’s son, Shane Terry, was born, they realized something was amiss. Baby Shane’s legs were stiff, and he had bone spurs on his hips and knees. After years of appointments and searching, he was diagnosed with FOP at Boston Children’s Hospital at age 4.  

“We immediately connected with the IFOPA,” she said. “We wanted to contribute whatever we could to raising funds for research, so a few months later we hosted our first golf tournament in Watertown, NY.” 

Since then, Kim has taken an active role raising funds for FOP research from golf tournaments to spare change drives to scrapbooking events, ladies' nights and Softball in the Snow. Since their fundraising efforts began, she has raised more than $40,000. She remains grateful for the incredible support shown by FOP patients and families in the IFOPA community. 

“When we attended the international symposium in Orlando, Fla., that was the first time Shane saw other FOP patients,” she said. “I was able to meet other parents, and talk about modifications and tips as we prepared for Shane to enter kindergarten.

“The IFOPA has always shown us that we are not alone, and there are people we can reach out to with questions and concerns.” 

Nine years later, Shane is enjoying a busy summer full of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp activities and reading. He loves school, and plans to be an author or police officer when he grows up. 

Kim is thankful and excited to receive the Outstanding Community Involvement Award for 2017.  

The IFOPA congratulates Kim for this accomplishment, and thanks her for her tireless efforts on behalf of the IFOPA community.

Outstanding Community Involvement Award
Group: The Lawler Family

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Kristine Lawler beams with pride as she talks about her husband Will, son Matt, and daughters Marisa and Morgan.  

The Lawler family’s foundation of strength and support proved especially vital when their youngest daughter, Morgan, was diagnosed with FOP at 4 years of age. After receiving the diagnosis, Dr. Fred Kaplan told Kristine that the IFOPA was a resource they could turn to. Soon, Kristine and her family found comfort from what she described as a “tight family-based organization that helps us not feel so alone.” 

Kristine was relieved to meet FOP patients and families who understood her concerns and could share a wealth of knowledge. 

As the community in East Bridgewater, Mass., rallied around Morgan, Kristine met the Woods, a special couple with exceptionally big hearts who organized Morgan’s Ride. Their incredible efforts have increased participation and sponsorships each year. 

In addition to Morgan’s Ride, there have been Spaghetti Dinners and other community fundraisers raising more than $40,000 for FOP research.  

Kristine is so thankful for the friendships she’s made. “It is clear to me that everyone in the IFOPA community is pulling for each other,” she said. “These connections and relationships mean so much.” 

Today, Kristine corresponds with other families to share adaptations helpful in daily living. 

Kristine says Jeannie Peeper really created something great and Jeannie herself has reached out to check on how Morgan is doing. Morgan’s flare-ups have been mild up until this past year. Kristine hopes the FOP community will continue to share resources and research as they continue working towards a cure. 

The IFOPA is appreciative of the Lawler family’s exceptional efforts on behalf of the entire IFOPA community, specifically through fundraising and peer-to-peer mentorship.

Outstanding International Leadership Award
Julie Collins

Julie_Collins_(2).jpegJulie Collins is an extraordinary role model for the FOP community. Throughout her tenure with the IFOPA and FOP Australia, she has worked to connect newly diagnosed FOP patients with expert doctors and researchers; secure funding for FOP research; do interviews about FOP with various media outlets; and provide guidance and support to FOP families in Australia and New Zealand. 

Julie first learned about FOP when her 18-month-old son, Ollie, was diagnosed in 1995. 

“We felt so isolated at first,” she said. “I quickly realized the need for a patient organization in Australia. So with the support and encouragement of friends and family, I began working to establish what would become FOP Australia.” 

Julie wrote to many patients, researchers and doctors for guidance. “It wasn’t long before I met Jeannie Peeper and Amanda Cali,” Julie said. “They were incredibly inspirational, and gave me the resources and knowledge I needed to care for a young child with FOP.” 

Ollie and Julie traveled to IFOPA meetings and symposiums throughout Ollie’s childhood, including the third international symposium in Philadelphia, Penn. in 2000 and the fourth international symposium in Orlando, Fla. in 2007.  

Julie was appointed as the International President’s Council representative for Australia when the IPC formed in 2007, and served in this role for nine years. She greatly enjoyed representing Australia at conferences and forums in Italy and the United States, but in particular, she loved liaising with patients and families in Australia. 

She is a passionate advocate who worked tirelessly toward the dream of establishing a patient organization for FOP patients and families in Australia and New Zealand. In 2014, the family of Jarvis Budd, another Brisbane FOP patient, joined the effort.  

Julie said, “The Budd family helped our dream become a reality. We were all so thrilled when FOP Australia officially formed in 2015.” 

Julie was nominated to serve as Vice Chairperson of FOP Australia. She was also a key contributor to writing, designing, and partially funding the FOP Australia website, which launched in 2016. 

Julie helped inspire a culture of fundraising among the Australian FOP community that continues to this day. She organized the second-ever Australian FOP Conference in Brisbane in 2016, and assisted in organizing the FOP Australia launch party and fundraiser in 2016.  

At the same time, a key priority for Julie was to reach out to the Australian medical community and seek an appropriate doctor to oversee a Natural History Study (NHS) site in Australia as part of the Clementia FOP trial. 

After attending the inaugural Drug Development Forum in Boston in 2014, Julie was given the name of  Professor Matt Brown, MBBS, who, at the time, was with the University of Queensland.  

In 2016, Professor Brown’s group from Queensland University of Technology and Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), and Dr. Ben Whitehead from Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, agreed to establish a NHS trial site that has subsequently been extended to a palovarotene trial site. This allowed Australian families to participate in the clinical trial without having to fly thousands of miles to the palovarotene trial site in the United States. Julie was also an active participant in the Clementia Patient Narrative Project. 

Matt and his team, with input from Julie, have since embraced the idea of creating a center for excellence in FOP clinical support for Australia. 

Julie repeatedly emphasizes that everything she has achieved for the IFOPA and FOP Australia has stemmed from her deep care and concern for all patients with FOP. 

Julie said, “These achievements would not have been possible without the love and support of my family and friends, as well as the teamwork of the Australian and international FOP community. 

“My hope for FOP Australia is that we find every FOP patient there is. And my hope for the IFOPA is that we remain warmly family-centered as we continue working to find a treatment and cure for FOP.” 

Julie is incredibly proud of the man Ollie has become, and credits much of his success and passion for all he does with the support they received from the IFOPA community ever since he was diagnosed. Ollie even received the first-ever Inspiring Leadership Award in 2010. He recently graduated law school, and is now a successful lawyer working in Brisbane.  

The IFOPA thanks Julie for her years of service and incredible advocacy work for both the IFOPA and FOP Australia.

Inspiring Leadership Award
Jasmin Floyd

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Soon after Jasmin started kindergarten in 1998, she began complaining to her parents of a stiff neck. After seeing several doctors and specialists, they learned Jasmin had FOP. 

In the years following, Jasmin felt “insecure, tentative and very reserved” as she learned to navigate her world with the progressing symptoms of FOP. But through the support of her many friends at the IFOPA, Jasmin developed the strength to share her story with other FOP patients and the rare disease community. 

Jasmin’s family had a greeting card and small gifts company from 2001 to 2009 and sold items at craft shows and events. Jasmin said, “This was a great way to raise awareness of FOP. It was also nice to be able to give a small percentage of the proceeds to the IFOPA.” 

Since then, Jasmin has done exceptional work to raise awareness through her blog One Spirit, Two Skeletons, social media accounts, a feature story on CNN, and a recent feature article that hit media outlets worldwide! 

Jasmin’s efforts, which have brought more exposure to the FOP community, led her to be nominated for the 2017 Jeannie Peeper Award for Inspiring Leadership. 

Jasmin says it is a huge honor to receive this award, and be recognized for her efforts to write and speak about her life with FOP. She is also grateful for the vital support she has received from the IFOPA. 

She said, “Receiving this award feels surreal. It’s helping me to realize how much I’ve grown as an individual. 

“It’s such a blessing to have a community I can turn to with any random, scary, intimidating or even embarrassing problem I may struggle with as a result of FOP progression. I’m comforted by my friends with FOP, some of whom I’ve known for over 15 years, and I’m grateful to be able to connect with so many incredible doctors and researchers.” 

Today, Jasmin’s hobbies and interests include writing, reading, traveling, photography and public speaking. 

Jasmin hopes the FOP community will continue to find even more ways to stay connected through events and gatherings worldwide.  

She concluded, “There’s an unbreakable family bond between all of us that’s even stronger when we have opportunities to connect in person. I’m extremely grateful for our FOP family and always look forward to whenever and wherever the next reunion may be!” 

The IFOPA congratulates Jasmin, and thanks her for sharing her experiences with the FOP and rare disease communities on her uplifting and inspiring blog.

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