By Cody Worsham
Like most of his peers, Dylan Jenks knew virtually nothing about cystic fibrosis for most of his 28 years. He was, in his own words, “blissfully ignorant.”
He can no longer make that claim, and by the end of the summer, Jenks hopes to say the same for as many people as he possibly can.
Jenks is one of 13 local young professionals competing for the title of Capital City’s Finest, a fundraiser organized by the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Jenks was approached by CFF development manager Gina Recile earlier this summer about participating in the fundraiser for the foundation, which receives no federal dollars. When he saw the hard work Recile and the three other Baton Rouge chapter employees – Erin Achberger, Carolyn Herrera, and Natalie Fellows – were putting in with no federal support, Jenks was compelled to accept.
“They’re going out working their tails off to get funds raised to represent people from across the state,” Jenks said. “These four girls put in countless hours, their whole heart and soul and everything they can into this foundation. I’m compelled by how hard they’re working to do anything I can to help out.”
For weeks, Jenks and the 12 others have been vying for the Capital City’s Finest title, which will go to the participant who can raise the most money for the CFF over a 17-week period. The goal from the outset was for the contestants to raise $2,500 each, but Jenks and his peers soon saw the winner would need to raise even more than that. He said it could take $6,000 or $7,000 to win the honors, thanks to the spirit of competition among the contestants.
“The truth of the matter is everyone wants to win. We want to raise money for the foundation, but put a competition in front of us, and we want to win. That’s great news for the foundation, and it puts a little extra challenge on everybody.”
For his part, Jenks is hosting “Breathe Easy” at The Varsity on Saturday, August 9 at 6 p.m. Described on the event’s Facebook page as “A party. A fundraiser as well, but definitely a party,” Breathe Easy will feature live art battles, food and drink, and the musical stylings of SpeakEasy and New Orleans’ based funksters Flow Tribe, with all proceeds going to Jenks’ fundraising efforts.
Jenks, who owns his own design/build contracting company BUILTDesigns, said the idea for Breathe Easy came to him while moonlighting at The Varsity this summer.
“I was thinking something small we could make a little money off of,” he said, “but once we started putting the ducks in order, it blew up into something way bigger than I ever could have dreamed of.”
In addition to live art battles among some of the city’s finest artists – the results of which will be auctioned off during the evening – there will also be food from Galatoire’s, a silent auction throughout the night, featuring rare gifts like antique LSU football programs donated to Jenks from a client.
Promoting the event has been a grassroots effort for Jenks, who solicited most of the donations and performers himself. He even had his girlfriend design the event poster while he was out making cold calls for charitable donations.
If that sounds like a lot of work, well, that’s because it is. But Jenks says he’s compelled to work hard for a cause that he says “caught me off guard.” Citing research that has helped push life expectancy for CF patients from 7 to 37 in recent years, Jenks said raising money is the least he could do for a population suffering from a life-stealing disease.
“Knowing their only hope to keeping the research going is off of private charitable donations, I really can’t turn a blind eye to it anymore,” he said. “It’s something I feel compelled to be a part of. There’s too many able-bodied, unrestricted people out here living blissfully ignorant of the struggles other people are going through. It was me forever, for 28 years, until this campaign got thrown in my face.”
A Fundraiser Benefitting the CYSTIC FIBROSIS FOUNDATION
Saturday, August 9th
Doors open at 6PM
General Admission Tickets are $35
VIP Tickets are $80
All Tickets are available at The Chimes Restaurant on Highland Road, over the phone at 866.777.8932 and on-line at www.ticketweb.com